When making healthy lifestyle choices, buying fresh organic food often features in our decisions. The benefits of eating organic food are well known and highly publicised.
And yet, despite spending a third of our lives in bed, organic bedding is often overlooked or dismissed as being simply a luxury!
What chemicals are you exposed to while you sleep?
Even though non-organic or non-natural bed linen and bedding may look clean and good quality in the packet, it’s likely that the chemical processing it has undergone makes it anything but.
Pesticides, fluoropolymers, chemical-based dyes and fire retardants are all commonly used in the manufacture of non-organic bedding (and clothing). Some items of bedding may even contain formaldehyde resin, which may result in symptoms such as headaches and rashes on continued exposure*.
Small amounts of these toxins may ‘off-gas’ and be both inhaled and absorbed through the skin. Washing the bedding doesn’t fix this problem – it's been suggested that this only removes around 60% of the toxins.
If you’ve ever bought a synthetic mattress then you will probably be familiar with that ‘new mattress’ chemical smell.
Memory foam mattresses could also be bad news in terms of off-gassing chemicals. Made from polyurethane mixed with a number of other chemicals, memory foam reacts to body heat, resulting in that comfy ‘moulding’ effect. The hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) associated with the manufacture of memory foam include methylene chloride, which has been linked to nose and throat irritation on short term exposure and to headaches, nausea and dizziness on long term exposure.
A kinder alternative, the handmade Abaca organic mattresses are Soil Association certified and are a great choice for anyone who wants to sleep on completely organic natural materials.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)
If you have multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), the chances are you’ll be all too aware of the potential health effects of exposure to strong chemicals.
MCS is an isolating and chronic illness, affecting people of all ages. It is characterised by allergy-type reactions to low levels of chemicals that would not normally affect other people. If you have MCS you may find that you cannot tolerate chemicals in many household cleaning products, toiletries and perfumes. People with MCS can also sometimes react to certain foods and medicines. Symptoms are individual and varied, ranging from headaches and rashes to nausea.
Taking steps to reduce the overall ‘chemical load’ on your body can help to reduce MCS symptoms. Although there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, as a general rule organic items are usually preferable, as there are fewer synthetic chemicals and treatments to react to.
Why pesticides are bad news
Conventional, non-organic cotton may have been grown with potentially hazardous pesticides and herbicides.
Pesticides are of course designed to kill any living thing that can threaten crops, so they are not something we would naturally want to sleep on.
Not only has exposure to pesticides been linked to a whole host of ailments and aggravation of MCS symptoms, it has also been reported that accidental pesticide poisoning kills up to 40,000 farmers in developing countries every year.
Contamination by pesticides (particularly neonicotinoid insecticides) has also been associated with the decline in our bee population.
Organic is the kinder option
Choosing to buy organic is simply a great choice all round. When you purchase a certified organic mattress or item of bedding or bed linen, you can rest assured that what you are sleeping on has not undergone any pesticide, herbicide, flame retardant or other synthetic chemical treatment. There are many types of organic certification but the Soil Association accreditation or GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) are among the best known.
Due to the stringent criteria for organic certification and more costly manufacture, these items do naturally come with a higher price tag. We believe it’s worth it, but if you have a smaller budget, then checking for independent testing like the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 offers reassurance that the product is free from harmful chemicals. In order for a product to meet the OEKO-TEX® Standard 100, all of its components (including zips and buttons) must comply with the strict standards, which go well beyond the levels of existing legislation.
Caring for your organic bedding and bed linen
There is no point in investing in quality organic bedding and then washing it using a harsh chemical-laden detergent. We recommend using gentle, natural (preferably organic) laundry products to wash your bedding (and clothing and towels) in. The Alma Win laundry products are ideal for this.