Question from Sophia

Hi Debra,

I’m looking to purchase a Naturepedic crib mattress and want to ask you your opinion.

What is the best nontoxic option between the two following options?

option 1) The ‘polyethylene’ fabric that coats the Organic Cotton 2 in 1 Ultra/Quilted Crib Mattress ( U.S. Patent No. 9,259,096. Other patents pending.)
https://www.naturepedic.com/our-products/baby/baby-crib-mattresses/quilted-series/organic-cotton-2-in-1-ultra-quilted-252-crib-mattress

option 2) the organic waterproof Pads featuring “Drysleep TM” technology which is a “polyurethane waterproof barrier”?
https://www.naturepedic.com/info/drysleep

If you’re able to describe the differences between the two and the relative pros and cons it would be much appreciated.

Also, is there any point to getting an organic natural fibre mattress when you have to put a plastic mattress protector on top to make it waterproof? Why not get a normal mattress and just wrap it in polyethylene ?

Thanks so much!

Debra’s Answer

To answer your toxicity question, both polyethylene and polyurethane film (not polyurethane foam) are about the same in terms of toxic exposure: infinitesimal. If I had to choose one to be less toxic it would be polyethylene because it is a very simple plastic and Naturepedic’s polyethylene is made from non-GMO sugar cane, not petroleum.

A few years ago, Clean Production Action developed The Plastics Scorecard, which evaluates the hazardous effects of various plastics. Polyethylene is one of the “most benign” plastics.

To answer your other question, I asked Naturepedic founder Barry Cik to explain in his own words. And here’s what he said…

Excellent questions. Let’s go through this step-by-step:

A. Why should a crib mattress be waterproof?
Babies have accidents. Whether it’s urine or bigger messes or spilled milk or whatever, if the mattress is not totally waterproof and easy to clean, you’ll be growing a garden filled with microbes, bacteria, etc. This is not a healthy environment for a baby.

In former times, you put straw down for the baby to sleep on. And when the straw was no longer usable, you took away the straw and put down new straw. But we don’t live in that world any longer. Today everyone wants a mattress, and the mattress must last for a long time. So there is no choice but to waterproof the mattress if you want to maintain hygienic conditions.

B. What’s the most non-toxic waterproofing for a crib mattress?
Polyethylene wins hands down. According to a review of polymers (plastics) done by Clean Production Action, the conclusion for polyethylene is “For each manufacturing step, no core chemical inputs are chemicals of high concern as defined by GreenScreen Benchmark 1.” (See the attachment)

In Naturepedic products, the waterproofing is food-grade polyethylene, which means that it meets the FDA standard for food-contact, and, further, it’s made from sugarcane. As well, the sugarcane is non-GMO.

C. So why is polyurethane used in some products?
There is no polyurethane in any Naturepedic mattresses. All Naturepedic mattresses are waterproofed with polyethylene. But there are some other products that can’t use polyethylene for waterproofing. In particular, waterproof protector pads that are continuously put into the washing machine and dryer fall apart quickly if waterproofed with polyethylene. So, for waterproof protector pads, Naturepedic uses a clean polyurethane, free of many toxic chemicals (and the polyurethane is not even visible on the surface as it’s a very small amount added to the interior of the pad, just enough to make the pad waterproof). This is approved by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and meets the GOTS non-toxic standard.

D. If polyethylene is so wonderful, why not just get a regular crib mattress and wrap it in polyethylene?

Some people do exactly that. (I noticed that the question is coming from someone in Australia – and wrapping crib mattresses in polyethylene is done quite a bit in New Zealand and perhaps also in Australia, and this does greatly help in preventing babies from coming into contact with a number of poisons.)

That said, it’s one thing to use polyethylene to shield the baby from various poisons. But, if you can get the whole mattress to be free of all these poisons, why put your baby on a “regular” mattress to begin with, even with the polyethylene wrap?

With Naturepedic crib mattresses, you get the entire mattress approved and certified to the GOTS standard. Naturepedic crib mattresses are not made with vinyl (PVC), phthalates, ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA/PEVA), perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), polyurethane foam, chemical flame barriers or any other flame retardant chemicals, latex (a potential allergen for babies, even if natural/organic), formaldehyde, pesticides, GMOs, glues/adhesives, etc. And then, as well, the waterproofing is food-grade polyethylene made from non-GMO sugarcane.

Note: The question also refers to the 2-in-1 Ultra/Quilted Crib Mattress. This is waterproof on one side and quilted, but not waterproof, on the other side. This model is made for people who generally want the waterproof side for infants, but then are comfortable using a non-waterproof quilted surface for a toddler. This is a personal decision, but we always recommend using a waterproof crib surface, or a waterproof pad placed over a non-waterproof surface, if there is a chance of leakage into the mattress. As stated up front, we do not recommend taking chances when it comes to hygiene.

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