My guest is Barry Cik, founder of Naturepedic, the leading brand for organic baby and children’s mattresses (they now make adult mattresses too). As an environmental engineer Barry understands toxic chemical issues better than most product manufacturers and has a “no compromise” policy when choosing materials from which to make Naturepedic products. We’ll discuss why an organic mattress is so important for babies and children, toxic chemicals found in common mattresses and their health effects, and what goes in to designing and constructing a “certified organic mattress.” www.naturepedic.com
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
Why Your Newborn Baby Needs an Organic Crib Mattress
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Barry Cik
Date of Broadcast: May 13, 2013
DEBRA: Hi, Barry.
BARRY CIK: Hello. How are you?
DEBRA: I’m fine. I’m very happy to hear your voice. I was wondering what I was going to say for the next hour.
BARRY CIK: No problem. I’m happy to help out. I’m still delighted to hear this program is going well.
DEBRA: It is. We’re having a lot of great guests and you are yet another one of them. So let’s just start over. You started at the beginning of the hour.
I’ll introduce you again. This is Barry Cik. He’s the founder of Naturepedic. Naturepedic is the leading brand of organic baby and children mattresses. They now also make adult mattresses. And as an Environmental Engineer, Barry understands toxic chemical issues better than most product manufacturers and he has a no-compromise policy when choosing materials from which to make Naturepedic products.
And so, today we’re going to discuss why an organic mattress is so important for babies and children. What are toxic chemicals found in mattresses and their health effects and what goes into designing and constructing organic mattress?
Now Barry, I told you while I was waiting for you to come on the line, but I want you to tell again how you became interested? Well first, many years ago, why did you become an environmental engineer? And then, what made you decide to make certified organic baby mattresses?
BARRY CIK: We have to start with my background. I’m a board-certified environmental engineer. And I’ve been chasing toxic chemicals for a living for pretty much all my adult life. We’re talking 30 years of doing this. So I do know little bit about toxic chemicals.
I’m also certified by the Institute of Professional Environmental Practice. I’m also a certified Hazardous Materials Manager. I’m an author of a textbook for Government Institute for Environmental Matters. I’m a Diplomat Forensic Engineer. I’m entitled to testify in court as an expert witness. I’m certified by the Ohio EPA and a few other smaller things.
Anyway, 10 years ago, my wife sent me to a baby store to buy a crib mattress and a few other things for our first grandchild. Now, truth be told, as of that day, I had never been in a baby store in my life. My wife used to buy all these things that we needed for our kids and I just never paid attention to it.
But here I was in a baby store, looking for a crib mattress, and every single one was made with foam and styros. They contain various chemicals that I didn’t think were appropriate for my grandchild. I talked to the salesperson. I said, “What else do you have?” And salesperson pretty much said, “No. There’s nothing else. This was the way it’s done. This was the way mattresses are made.” And that was that. I was not comfortable with all that.
At one point in the conversation, the salesperson said, “Well, if it wasn’t safe, the government wouldn’t allow it on the shelf,” but I knew better. The government doesn’t regulate everything. The government regulates a few things. For example, they have [inaudible 00:04:39] standards and now they have some standards for certain chemicals like lead and certain phthalates, but the government really doesn’t know what’s going into mattresses. The government really doesn’t know what’s going into a mattress if it’s coming from China and so on.
So I was not impressed to say the least. I came home and I told my wife, “I just didn’t buy it, sorry.”
My grandfather sent some straws. Maybe, we should go to some of our neighbors and borrow some straws or something because in my opinion, we think we’ve made progress, but in some ways, we have not made progress. It’s quite the contrary.
DEBRA: I agree.
BARRY CIK: So one thing lead to the other, and here I am.
DEBRA: Well, you certainly have the finest — I was going to say ‘one of the finest’, but I think that you actually are considered by most people to have the top-of-the-line baby mattress, particularly in the organic category.
I want to talk to you about the toxic chemicals that are in regular mattresses. I want you to tell us little more. We’re coming up on a commercial break, but just start and tell us about what you think is the most dangerous toxic chemicals. Then, we’ll continue after the break.
BARRY CIK: Truth be told, the problem is not trying to find the single most toxic chemicals, because the real problem is trying to identify what’s there in the first place.
There are 80,000 chemicals in the marketplace currently, and nobody has any clue as to what combination or what chemicals they use in any particular product. Different manufacturers, the same kind of material will often add or subtract this or that or the other thing. There’s nobody keeping track. So the biggest problem is not even knowing what’s there to begin with. That’s the biggest issue.
DEBRA: We’ll talk about that more after the break. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio, and I’m here with Barry Cik, founder of Naturepedic.
DEBRA: This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd, and I’m here with Barry Cik, founder of Naturepedic, the leading brand of organic baby and children’s mattresses.
Barry, you said something that’s really interesting before the break. You said that it’s really difficult to find out even what is in these materials and ingredients that are used in products. Tell us more about that because I think that most consumers think that you can just go to a label somewhere and it will tell you everything that’s in everything. That hasn’t been my experience. I think that’s not your experience too. So tell us more about that from your experience inside the industry as an environmental engineer.
BARRY CIK: You’re totally correct. Basically, even I, let alone the public, can’t find out what’s in those materials. But let me go back and paint the bigger picture here, so everybody can understand the bigger issue.
It all goes back to the 1970s when the public woke up and realized that we’re using all kinds of chemicals that are polluting our environment. There was a big, huge push to deal with the issue. And here is how Congress at the federal level dealt with that issue. It created several laws. Several laws have worked in different areas. There are some other ones that don’t apply to consumer products.
For example, something like [inaudible 00:14:12]. This is [inaudible 00:14:13] that I’m protecting workers in the factory, so that if the factory uses toxic chemicals, they have to admit that to their workers and they have to provide the workers with a basic knowledge about the chemicals that are being used and how to protect themselves and what to do in the event of a spill or another accident, so on and so forth. So that’s one kind of law that was created.
Another kind of law that was created was the Superfund, where our Congress created laws to clean up real old toxic dumps that are just polluting the groundwater and so on. That’s another kind.
Then, there were different laws to protect forests, laws to protect [inaudible 00:14:57]. There are various different laws all created during the ‘70s and the early ‘80s.
Now, among all those laws, there are two that are most relevant to consumer products and to the consumers in general. Those two are called RCRA and TSCA.RCRA is the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. TSCA is the Toxic Substances Control Act.
Now, RCRA was designed to track the use of toxic chemicals from cradle to grave. So if you have a toxic chemical, you have to identify it and you have to monitor it as it’s going through the system. And most importantly for RCRA, at the end of the system, so to speak, it’s got to go to a hazardous waste landfill.
So let me give you an example. If you’re making a product and you’re using arsenic in the product, when you make that arsenic, you identify it, you identified it going through the product. And when you’re done making the product, if you have some arsenic left over, that waste material, it’s yucky and gummy and you can’t use it, that leftover arsenic can no longer be dumped into your nearby lake or river or out your backdoor. It has to go to a hazardous waste landfill where it’s buried in a proper kind of landfill where it won’t leak out into the environment. That’s what RCRA does.
Now, TSCA was the other side of the coin. TSCA regulates the introduction of the chemicals to begin with. What chemicals are allowed to be used? In what ways are they allowed to be used?
So now, what happened was that the RCRA was a very severe, well-done law. TSCA was not. Let’s go backwards. TSCA does not really control the introduction of toxic chemicals. It’s pretty much the wild west where manufactures can introduce whatever chemicals they want to. There’s very little oversight from the EPA. There’s very little oversight.
Today, if you want to introduce a new chemical, you fill out a form and you usually get it approved within three weeks without saying too much about your product. You can pretty much get it introduced. Sometimes, the EPA will ask you to do a little bit of some analysis, but for the most part, you can introduce whatever you want and get away with it. That’s TSCA.
And so, what’s the bottom line?
Oh, and the way, as far as TSCA is concerned, when TSCA was created, there were already 70,000 to 80,000 chemicals. I’m saying 70,000 to 80,000 chemicals on the market and all those were grandfathered. None of those ever got tested. You can use it all you want.
So at the end of the day, what that really means is if you’re making a widget, and you’re starting with 100 lbs. of arsenic as part of the formula for the widget, at the end of the day, when you’re done making your widget, 95 lbs. of the arsenic went into the widget, 5 pounds are leftover yucky, gummy waste. The 5 lbs. that are controlled by RCRA must go to a landfill, but 95 lbs. that went into your baby product is completely uncontrolled.
DEBRA: Yeah. This is what’s so ridiculous about it. There are laws when I started studying this just as a consumer 30 years ago. I’m looking all this and I’m saying, “This doesn’t make sense.”
If you buy a bottle of formaldehyde, there’s a warning label on it telling you all the dangers of formaldehyde, “Don’t drink it. Don’t breathe it” and all that stuff. And yet, here, then I thought a particle board piece of furniture that is out-gassing formaldehyde perpetually, there’s no warning label on it at all – or bedsheets that are coated with formaldehyde.
Probably, an even more graphic example is that you have to put a filter on a cigarette and put a warning label on the package of the cigarette for the smoker, but the person standing next to the smoker has no warning label and no filter.
This is what’s going on in virtually on all the products that have toxic chemicals in them, am I right, that we’re being exposed to.
BARRY CIK: Exactly.
DEBRA: There are regulations for the toxic wastes that are produced and there are regulations for if we dispose of them (we have to take it to the household hazardous waste dump), but there are a very few regulations that say, “Don’t put this chemical in the products in the first place.” And that’s what people are trying to change.
We need to go to a break now, but when we come back, I want you to tell us about what you’re doing as a manufacturer and how you’re making products that doesn’t contain toxic chemicals. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And I’m here today with Barry Cik, founder of Naturepedic, the leading ground for organic baby and children’s mattresses. They now make adult mattresses too. You can see all of them at Naturepedic.com. You can also learn more about this radio show, Toxic Free Talk Radio ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com.
Barry, tell us now about your standards and materials that you use to make your mattresses and how they’re different from the kind of mattresses that you would find in a regular mattress store.
BARRY CIK: A typical baby mattress, for example, has to be waterproof. So let’s just start with that. There’s a waterproof and there’s a surface material. So we do not use the vinyl because of all these issues with plasticizers that are used to make vinyl soft.
Vinyl is actually polyvinyl chloride for the most part. In order to make a soft polyvinyl chloride or vinyl, you have to add various plasticizers commonly known as phthalates chemicals. They’re the most common type of plasticizer. There are all kinds of issues with phthalates.
Four years ago, the Consumer Product Safety Commission finally banned some of them, but there are many others on the market that are being used now. It will take many more years until people determine whether those are safe or not safe. You can’t really make vinyl without the use of plasticizers. This is one issue after the other after the other.
We took a position. We’re just not interested in using vinyl or phthalates chemicals of any kind in baby products. We believe that it’s not a prudent way to design a product for a baby.
DEBRA: Yes. We should also mention that babies, their bodies are not developed like adults are. They are many, many times more susceptible to toxic exposures. If you were to put an adult and a baby on the same mattress, it would be much more harmful to the baby than to the adult because they’re so susceptible to exposures at that age.
BARRY CIK: Exactly, exactly. So then comes the question (and you’re asking me) of how do we do things in a practical manner? How do we solve these issues?
So let’s continue on this one example for a moment. There are two ways to waterproof a mattress. There are plasticsand there are chemicals.
So let’s go backwards. Chemicals like perfluorinated compounds are frequently used to waterproof. I saw a recent study done by the Mount Sinai School of Medicine’s Children’s Environmental Health Center that correlated the use of perfluorinated compound in a different setting, but nonetheless correlated it with some very serious health issues. And so, we took the position that we don’t want to use any waterproofing chemicals to waterproof a product.
So if we’re done with chemicals, how about the use of plastics? That’s really the only other practical way to waterproof a product, but we all know that plastics can be pretty nasty also. There are chemicals that are added to plastic that are not very cool.
So how do we deal with that issue? The answer is there are many ways to make a plastic. There are thousands of ways to make plastic. There are a thousand and one chemicals you can put into the plastic or not put into the plastic.
So if you have to waterproof a product and you have to use a plastic or you’re down to a plastic, why not at least use a plastic that is rated as a safer plastic? It’s really not asking that much. It’s not that difficult. It can be done.
So in our case, you listeners can go, for example, to www.GreenPeace.org Green Peace is certainly a very reliable and conscientious organization when it comes to chemicals. They have a page on their website called the Pyramic of Plastic…
DEBRA: Yes, I’ve seen that.
BARRY CIK: …where they rank all the common plastics. They consider PVC or vinyl can be the most hazardous of all the plastic. And they consider bio-based to be the least hazardous of all the plastics. It’s a new corn plastic that have come out recently.
We’ve been working on the corn plastics. We have not been able to use them yet because the corn plastics on the market are very noisy. They make a lot of potato chip bags out of corn plastic, but it’s a very noisy bags. So the corn plastic itself has not worked yet, but the very, very next best plastic that Green Peace would approve of is PE or polyethylene.
And we decided that we agree. Polyethylene happens to be a fairly simple plastic. It is a plastic. It is petroleum-based. It’s not for Tarzan and Jane, but that’s fine. But if you need to have a plastic to waterproof a product, why not use something like polyethylene, which is a fairly simple plastic. It’s synthetic, but it doesn’t have all the harmful chemicals that some of the other plastics have. So why not use something like that? So that’s what we decided to do.
We even took it a step further because we realized that there is something called food grade polyethylene. It’s an FDA standard, which is used at your grocery, your supermarket. If you go in and you buy a loaf of bread and if that loaf of bread comes wrapped in a clear, thin plastic, that’s a food grade polyethylene. They wrap your teas in the food grade polytethylene. It’s the purest, cleanest plastic on the market and we decided we’re going to find a way to use that to waterproof a mattress. No one has ever thought of that before and that’s what we use.
So this is one example of testing facts and saying, “Okay. How can we achieve something that the consumer wants, the consumer needs and do it in a more responsible manner with less risk than some of the more common materials?” And that’s we’ve done. We follow that across the board.
We found ways to get rid of the use of flame retardant chemicals entirely, entirely. We don’t use flame retardant chemicals in our product.
DEBRA: I think that one of the things that I see (because I hear people discussing products all the time and asking me questions) is that I think a lot of consumers have in their mind that if it is natural, it’s safe. And if it is made from petroleum, it’s bad. And that’s pretty simplistic because I see what you’ve done.
I’ve been calling your company since almost the beginning I think. I see what you’ve done, you’re always choosing the least toxic, but the most natural material that you can. So in your top-of-the-line crib mattresses, you’re Naturepedic brand, you’re making those from certified organic cotton. Your whole mattress is certified organic by GOTS, the Global Organic Textile Standard.
Aren’t you the only that’s certified by GOTS to be a certified organic mattress?
BARRY CIK: Not the only one, but we’re the only commonly used baby mattress and the only that’s been waterproofed that meets the GOTS standards. That’s correct.
DEBRA: Yes. So here, you started out and said, “Well, the most totally pure thing that we could use would be organic cotton. But then we have this problem that babies wet their beds. And so is there a natural material that could be used?” And finding that there was none, you jumped outside of the box and found an acceptable material and then said, “How can we use this acceptable material to fulfill its function?” And I think that that’s really growing design.
If parents are concerned about wanting to keep their mattress dry and having that waterproof layer, then they know that they have a non-toxic option in your mattress. If they want to go 100% absolutely natural, no petroleum product, no plastic, then then you can also sell them a very-well made, well-crafted excellent material mattress that has no waterproofing, none at all.
So you really give a lot of options here for parents. I think that you’re really doing an excellent job with that.
Barry, we only have just about a minute left. Is there anything else that you’d like to add? You know so much about toxic chemicals in manufacturing, in products, in laws, and everything. I certainly want to have you back again. But is there anything you want to say just for us today?
BARRY CIK: Well, sure. And remind me, when I come back, we need to talk about the Global Organic Textile Standards and how that works, things your listeners would love to hear about and…
DEBRA: We certainly will. We certainly will.
BARRY CIK: And if I have to say one thing very quickly that’s more in line with what we covered today, I just want to remind the audience that there are 80,000 chemicals out there and we don’t really know which ones are being used in what quantity and in what product. There’s just no way to keep track of all that. That’s the underlying crust of the problem.
And another way of saying the same thing…
DEBRA: But I have to cut you off because the music is going to cut you off. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. We will still be talking tomorrow.