From car seats to safety gates to stranger danger, most parents are willing to go above and beyond to protect their little ones from harm. Why not start a little earlier? Believe it or not, simply sleeping on a natural latex mattress made with natural materials is the easiest thing a mother can do to begin protecting her baby before it’s even born. That’s because natural latex mattresses padded with organic wool are free of harmful toxins that can seep into a child’s bloodstream while it develops. Non-organic mattresses, on the other hand, are treated with flame-retardants in order to comply with strict federal and state flammability laws. Flame-retardants have long been linked to cancer, heart and lung damage, and memory loss. And in June, researchers at University of California Berkeley published a study suggesting that impaired fetal development also be added to the list.
According to Brenda Eskenazi of the Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research, exposure to flame retardants comprised of PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, may alter thyroid levels in pregnant women, threatening healthy fetal growth and brain development. PBDEs are everywhere: in carpets, furnishings, and electronics, though their concentration in non-organic mattresses is especially worrisome for researchers because of the amount of time the average person spends in bed. NonThe study suggests that as a pregnant woman’s exposure to PBDEs increases, so does her probability of developing maternal clinical hyperthyroidism, which may result in “altered fetal neurodevelopment, increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth and intrauterine growth retardation.”
Not only that, UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health published a study in January of 2010 revealing that higher levels of PBDEs may decrease a woman’s fertility altogether. “For every tenfold increase in PBDEs in the blood, we saw a 30% to 50% decrease in the odds of becoming pregnant in any given month,” reports Kim Harley, PhD.
The good news is that the naturally flame retardant properties of organic wool padding, found in natural mattresses, can help reduce a woman’s exposure to PBDEs because it allows manufacturers to put their products on the market without saturating them in chemicals. And natural mattresses are also free of other toxins like polyvinyl chloride, petroleum, and carbon monoxide, which pose additional health risks to pregnant mothers and their babies.
The bad news is that children under 12 have 2-10x times higher PBDE blood levels than their parents, thanks to the recent prevalence of flame retardants in schools, automobiles, airplanes, and other public places. Investing in a natural mattress allows Junior to reduce his exposure to PBDEs by nine months and, if the above statistic is any indication, kids today can use all the help they can get!