There is no more important place in the home for you to think carefully about the materials that surround you and your general indoor environment than in your bed. This is because of two things: the first is the amount of time you spend in this one place, your bed, each day, and second, beause it is when we are sleeping that our body’s natural revitalization and healing processes are most effective. Where do we all go to heal when we are really sick or injured? Well, we go to bed. That same healing process but on a more subtle level happens every time we stop and rest in bed.
Let’s consider what we might find in a standard bed today. There are fire retardents, in your pillows, and throughout your mattress in case you still smoke excessively and carelessly in bed. There may be polyester or polymers and chemicals of many sorts in the sheets (to keep them wrinkle free), there most likely are chemical dyes in those same sheets, and acrylic or polyesters in the blankets, because we are told that wool is ‘too scrtatchy’. The mattress probably sits on a box spring, also treated with fire retardents and made with chemically treated wood and formaldehyde based adheasives.
The headboard and frame, if made of wood will probably have the same or higher odds of being made with treated wood and toxic adhesives as the box spring. The finish on this exposed wood most likely is prone to offgasing VOC’s or volatile organic compounds. If the headboard is fabic it will have the same fire retardents, petrocenically based foam padding and probably a man-made petrochemically based or treated fabric. An old brass bed is great, hold onto it, squeaks and all, because there are probably no toxins coming off that unless you chew the lacquer coating.
This description above is of standard beds (and cribs!) in North America today, and many of the materials described are government regulated and recommended as ‘safe’.
Now I will describe an alternate model, with safe, available products and materials that are not potentially carcinogenic. Many of the chemicals I have described above are now being carefully studied for their causal effects on human health as well as the known harmful effects that chemicals such as fire retardents have on our environment and in our groundwater.
Natural latex pillows and mattresses are free from fire retardents because they do not need them, they are naturally non-combustible. Organic cotton sheets contain no chemical dyes, residual pesticides or off-gasing VOC’s. Silk, down, wool and cotton in various combinations provide all the warmth that people have needed for centuries. They still provide some of the best and healthiest options available today.
I reccommend that you go to a natural bedding store and ask for yourself or go on-line and do your own research before making these changes. I started with my pillow because I sleep on my side with my face on that pillow, then I saved and bought a latex mattress. We have a natural down comforter and are planning for a raw natural silk filled one next. Our sheets are cotton but our next ones will be organic and undyed cotton. Because this scale of change is best done as a process I encourage you to make your own choices based on what you can afford and on how you sleep. More on the bedroom itself to follow….