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There’s been a discussion happening on my Q&A: Berkeley Ergonomics post about organic mattresses and i just want to bring this subject into it’s own post.
The discussion started with a reader asking about a line of mattresses made by Berkeley Ergonomics. I said it looked OK on paper but they were claiming organic certifications and not displaying them. I said “ask for their certifications.”
Well, a reader wrote back and said:
I asked to see the certifications and they refused to send them to me. In fact they got very defensive. I would love to see them if you are able to get them. I am very suspect of any firm who makes organic claims but won’t provide the certificates. They should be PROUD of them, not want to hide them. It is my understanding that they get the fabric from Europe and do all the sewing themselves so they are handling the materials a LOT. I would be very interested to know if they are handling the materials in a fashion that maintains organic integrity.
This is a great question. There are three parts to the making of an organic product:
- the materials need to meet organic standards
- all the facilities that handle the organic material must be certified
- the handling of the material in all the certified facilities also needs to meet organic standards.
In other words, there are multiple certifications and associated transaction paperwork that are required before an item can be certified organic:
- the material that’s being used in the production process, for example cotton, must be certified as having been grown as organic cotton
- all the facilities (beginning with the organic fiber on the certified organic farm all the way to the facility that makes the final stitch) must be certified, and then
- each facility that moves the materials to the next facility in the production process must get a transaction certificate from the organic certifier who certifies the previous facility so that the next facility is assured that the materials are part of the organic production chain.
For a mattress to be an “organic mattress” it needs TWO certifications (in addition to transaction certificates): one for the materials and another as an organic handler, or manufacturer.
I mentioned that Naturepedic is the only certified organic manufacturer that I knew of and a reader commented, “Actually OMI, Lifekind and Savvy Rest are organic.”
So I want to take a look at these four companies: Naturepedic, OMI, Lifekind and Savvy Rest and see how organic each of them are. I will just disclose that I have known Naturepedic for many years and am very familiar with their products, materials, and philosophy (I wrote a review of their materials for Debra Lynn Dadd Recommended Products. But let’s just look at what each has to say on their websites.
Here’s what I’m going to look for and what you should look for when evaluating whether or not a mattress is organic:
- What is the claim?
- Do they have certificates publicly displayed?
- What are the certificates certifying?
- Who has done the certification?
- What are the standards for the certification?
- What are the dates the certificate is valid?
- What is the name on the certificate?
So let’s take a look…
Let’s start with Savvy Rest. www.savvyrest.com/certifications
The first certification they list is GREENGUARD GOLD. This is not an organic certification at all. It measures emissions against a certain standard. If you go to their website and search for mattresses you will see that many mattresses qualify to be GREENGUARD gold certified even if they have materials like vinyl covers, that I would not recommend. So this certification does not contribute to their being an organic mattress.
The next Savvy Rest listed certification is USDA Organic. This applies to their Dunlop latex supplier’s rubber tree farms. And then the latex processing is certified by the International Control Union to the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). All that seems fine. Their latex seems to be organic.
Then Eco Institute, which apparently is their latex certifier. Savvy Rest says, “Our Dunlop supplier, Cocolatex, has achieved Eco Institut certification for the purity of their organic latex.” Go ahead, click. Ah, the certificate is for natural latex. This is a “natural” certification. No organic here.
OEKO-TEX Standard 100 also is not an organic standard. This standard says that the material is below an established standard for 100 toxic substances.
The Environmental Protection Encouragement Agency (EPEA) was founded in 1987 by Michael Braungart to implement the Cradle-to-Cradle philosophy. The standards of this philosophy (which I greatly admire) includes the elimination of a list of toxic chemicals. But this is not an organic standard either. This certification is for Radium Foam, their supplier of (petroleum-based) Talalay latex. Again this is not an organic certification. It’s not even natural latex. [Radium Foam wrote to me from the Netherlands and explained that they supply certified natural latex to North America.]
The only thing certified organic about a Savvy Rest mattress is their USDA and GOLS certified organic latex. But not all their latex is organic. Only their USDA and GOLS certified organic Dunlop latex.
Finally, go to the website for the global organic textile standard: www.global-standard.org. There is NO certification for Savvy Rest as an organic mattress manufacturer. So we don’t know know how they are handling these materials.
Therefore, as far as i am concerned, this is NOT an organic mattress.
OMI and Lifekind
I’m putting OMI and Lifekind together because both these brands are made in the same factory, yet they present themselves as separate businesses with separate names and websites.
Let’s first look at their shared GOTS-certified Eco-Factory. You can read about it here on the OMI website and here on the Lifekind website. I’m not questioning that the factory is certified organic, I’m only commenting that they are not showing the certificate. But they do have one. See their listing in the GOTS database
So OMI can legitimately call themselves an organic mattress manufacturer. There is no GOTS certification for Lifekind listed in the GOTS database. I don’t know what the arrangement is between these two brands, but the GOTS certification is for OMI.
That said, let’s look at their individual claims about certification.
OMI also has a whole page of certifications at www.omimattress.com/Certifications.php.
This page starts out with a whole paragraph of firsts, which may or may not be true. There are no links to substantiation. They end the paragraph with the statement, “and a printout of our mattress emissions can be found on the UL/GREENGUARD website here. That would be great to see a printout of their mattress emissions. But I couldn’t find it.
They then go on to list numerous certifications, including USDA Organic, Texas Department of Agriculture, GREENGUARD, Oeko-Tex, and others that aren’t even certifications. None of them have certificates.
Mixed in with all these are their GOLS certification for organic latex and their GOTS certification. But they don’t even mention that they are a GOTS certified organic mattress manufacturer. They only say that their organic wool, cotton, and fabrics are GOTS certified.
All they need to say is they are a GOTS certified organic mattress manufacturer and show us the certificate. That covers the whole mattress—all the materials and manufacturing process. Their certification is valid until 2-17-2017. I can tell you they are certified because I went to the GOTS website and found their certification.
Lifekind has their own list of certifications at www.lifekind.com/organic-certifications
“Lifekind’s latex mattress cores are certified to the Global Organic Latex Standard. GOLS is a new certification available to mattress manufacturers.” OK. They have a certificate. Valid until December 16. But it’s a certificate for “Organic Mattresses, Inc.” Which is OMI.
And then they go on to list the same materials as given on the OMI certifications page. Look at these two pages and compare them for yourself.
So it’s clear to me that whether a mattress is branded OMI or Lifekind, it’s pretty much the same mattress, made in the same certified factory from the same certified materials. But neither of these companies are presenting their certifications so consumers can see and verify them, and it appears that Lifekind as a company has no certifications at all.
I’d love to see both these companies improve their presentation of their certifications and be more clear about their relationship.
Naturepedic lists all their certifications at
Right at the top of the page they tell us they are a Certified Organic Mattress Manufacturer & Facility. “All Naturepedic mattresses meet the organic and non-toxic standards of the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and/or the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS). U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognizes GOTS as the standard for organic consumer goods.” And then they link to their certificates, which are made out to Naturepedic. GOTS Certification, GOLS Certification
They also show their organic content standard certification. The Organic Exchange Certification Program which ensures proper tracking of organic material from its source to the finished product. Naturepedic is certified to meet this standard, demonstrating that the organic fiber in their products has been independently verified. OCS 100 Certification.
Naturepedic also has a GREENGUARD GOLD certification and a UL Formaldehyde-Free Verified certification, and Naturepedic products have been scrutinized by scientists and experts to ensure they do not contain any harmful materials for the Made Safe certification. All of these certifications are current and have valid certificates made out directly to Naturepedic and which clearly list all the Naturepedic products.
Therefore, in fact, Naturepedic truly is a GOTS certified organic mattress manufacturer and does business responsibly.
But I also have to add that Naturepedic not only meets the GOTS organic standards, they go above and beyond them.
- Naturepedic developed the patent on using food-grade polyethylene for waterproofing, instead of using vinyl or perfluorinated compounds (PFCs) or polyurethane. Then, Naturepedic has gone yet another step further and is making its food-grade polyethylene from non-GMO sugarcane.
- Naturepedic is now also using its sugarcane based food-grade polyethylene for its mattress cores, for those crib mattresses that do not use steel innersprings. (Naturepedic also does not use latex, even if organic, in its baby products because it has a separate policy not to use any materials in its baby products that might pose allergenic concerns.)
- Naturepedic does not use any chemical flame barriers or any other flame retardant chemicals whatsoever. All Naturepedic products are designed to meet all flammability requirements without having to rely on flame barriers/retardants.
- Naturepedic has purchased its own machine for making binding materials (aka “tape edge”) and is apparently now the only company that makes much of its binding from certified organic cotton.
- Naturepedic has purchased the last machines anywhere in the world that makes encased coils with sewn certified organic cotton encasing. (These are old German machines that are no longer being manufactured.) Virtually all encasing machines available today spray the encasings with glues, but Naturepedic refuses to use any glues/adhesives in any of its products.
- Naturepedic products are almost entirely free of any petroleum based materials or components.
In short, Naturepedic has become the gold standard for mattresses.
And the Moral of the Story Is…
Always, always, always look for the organic certificates, and make sure they are issued to the company making the claim (and not just to one of their suppliers, which proves little, because a supplier’s certification shows no connection to the mattress company) Independent third-party certification is the only way to know materials really are organic and the organic materials are being processed to similar organic standards.
I’m not trying to be critical here. I’m trying to raise the bar.
As consumers we can’t make informed decisions unless we have information about the materials used to make the products, presented to us in a way that are documented and can be understood. And as consumers, we need to learn what the certifications mean and how to read them.
All the information in this post is taken straight from the webpages given. You can go there and see for yourself.
I’d love to know your comments.
Pdfs of the certification pages mentioned that I examined on 28 and 29 November 2016:
We all want to buy organic, but in order to find out if a product is actually organic, it needs to be properly labeled.
Unfortunately, there are many non-food products that misrepresent themselves as being “organic” with false claims or misleading language.
Organic food has to be certified to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) standards. Non-food products may be certified to USDA Organic food standards, but the NOP doesn’t require certification and it doesn’t enforce against most false “organic” claims on personal care or textile products.
The good news list that the Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) has landed an investigation into organic fraud.
And they want to hear from us about how to stop organic fraud.
To make sure you are getting real organic products:
- For food products—look for the USDA Organic
- For textile products—look for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
- For personal care products—look for USDA certified organic ingredients and companies that are certified organic handlers.
I removed this post and all its comments after a reader brought to my attention that it was off topic for this blog. I agree, I’ve never discussed politics and I will continue that policy.
I’m writing this post because more often than I’d like I get questions from people who have washed clothing with chemicals in the fabrics and then are not sure if the chemicals are still in the washer. Or they wash something scented and can’t get the fragrance out.
Here’s what to do.
One day I was doing a test on a product and intentionally put perfume on a piece of clothing and then washed it in my washer. My washing machine was now scented and I couldn’t get the scent out.
What worked was a product called “washing machine cleaner”. I used the Clorox brand, but there are others. You find it in the laundry products section of a supermarket.
It’s really really really strong chlorine bleach.
But it did remove the fragrance from my washer.
The product itself is toxic, but we’re dealing with removing industrial chemicals from your washer.
Just use it once and be done with it.
On my post Q&A: OK to Use Gas Stove? a reader posted a comment asking “How do you know ‘If your burners are not adjusted properly, …they will produce more combustion by-products’?”
And also since more of you have been testing your indoor air quality by signing up with HomeLab, I’ve frequently been hearing that problems are being found in the kitchen, with combustion by-products being produced by their gas stove. I even found that in my house, where my VOC readings were “in the green” until I turned on my gas stove to cook.
A properly adjusted gas burner should have a blue flame continuously around the burner, like this:
The blue color means the flame is getting enough oxygen and burning completely.
Yellow flames mean the flame is not getting enough oxygen and is not burning completely.
To fix the problem of a yellow flame yourself see http://homeguides.sfgate.com/causes-burner-flame-gas-stove-yellow-82498.html
If a flame is missing, it means that the burner is clogged and needs to be cleaned.
If you want to clean your gas jets yourself see: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/clean-gas-stove-jets-26836.html
This burner really has a problem—uneven, yellow and missing flames—and is producing a lot of combustion by-products:
It’s a good idea to get your gas stove checked by a professional every once in a while, especially if you see any of these problems. Your local energy provider may offer a free service.
In the last few months I’ve suddenly started seeing many products made from “cork fabric” or “cork leather” and also “vegan leather.” I ignored this vegan leather for a while because in the past vegan leather often mean PVC vinyl, which is not a good substitute, but when I found out it was actually cork, I took a look at it.
You’ve probably seen cork in many consumer products such as wine stoppers and bulletin boards.
The cork used to make cork fabric is thin cork shavings obtained directly from the bark of the cork oak tree. These shavings are glued to a fabric backing to make a fabric that feels very much like leather, but is plant-based.
I called a manufacturer of cork fabric and asked them about the process of making it. The thin layer of cork is “laminated” to a fabric backing using an “environmentally-friendly” adhesive. The standard backing fabric is a polyester/cotton blend.
The company I talked with did not have much information about the laminating process for me to evaluate. This material is apparently made to a vegan standard and has some environmental benefit, but it doesn’t appear to be made with a nontoxic intent.
I have a sample of this fabric, sent from a retailer of products made from it. I just have a small swatch, but even that piece has enough odor to it that I can’t recommend it as being nontoxic. It smells like some kind of fabric finish. I actually had to take the swatch to my garbage can outdoors, and get it out of the house.
So if you see products made from this material, now you know what it is
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a report last week that shows more than 300 million children around the world are exposed to outdoor air pollution at least six times the level considered to be safe by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Clear the Air for Children is a 100-page report that shows the sources of outdoor air pollution, the impact of air pollution on the health of children, the unique vulnerabilities of children, how to protect children from air pollution.
Though the greatest numbers of children affected by the worst air quality is in India, Asia and north Africa, these same pollutants are found in indoor and outdoor air here in the United States and affect our children’s health in the same ways. And our own health as well.
According to a new study from researchers at the University of Ottawa and Columbia University, when outdoor air pollution levels rise in Manhattan, stock prices fall.
The study tracked the S&P 500 index, the most widely cited New York Stock Exchange benchmark, over a 15-year period and compared its returns with hourly measures of fine particulate matter in lower Manhattan, where the NYSE is based.
The one standard deviation increase in air pollution decreases returns by 11.9 percent, or what the researchers deemed a “substantial effect on daily NYSE returns.”
“We hypothesize that pollution decreases the risk attitudes of investors via short-term changes in brain and/or physical health.”
In the past it was thought that children and elderly people were at greatest risk for heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
But a new study suggests that even healthy people in their twenties are being harmed by particles found in air pollution.
In the new study, a group of 72 people with an average age of 23, from the city of Provo in Utah, provided blood samples during the winters of 2013, 2014 and 2015. When air pollution rose, the scientists found that the number of fragments of dead cells in their bloodstream increased.
One researcher said there appeared to be a significant effect on the health of young adults. “ These findings suggest that living in a polluted environment could promote the development of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke more pervasively and at an earlier stage than previously thought.”
“Although we have known for some time that air pollution can trigger heart attacks or strokes in susceptible, high-risk individuals, the finding that it could also affect even seemingly healthy individuals suggests that increased levels of air pollution are of concern to all of us, not just the sick or the elderly.”
I know I’m a day late for this Halloween, but all this is good to know for next Halloween and any time of year that face painting comes to mind.
Pretty Scary 2 goes beyond looking a labels and had kid’s cosmetics lab tested.
Here are some of the chemicals they found:
Seven different VOCs were found, four having the potential to lead to serious long-term health care effects:
- Toluene, a reproductive toxicant
- Styrene, a probable carcinogen and endocrine disruption compound
- Ethylbenzene, a possible carcinogen
- Vinyl acetate, another possible carcinogen
In addition they found
- heavy metals lead, cadmium, arsenic, and chromium
- ethoxylated ingredients
This comprehensive report covers insufficient regulations, what you can find on the label and what thy cab’t, and much more.
After reading this I went searching for safe face paints. After reading some descriptions of so-called “nontoxic” and “natural” face paints I decided this needed more research before I could recommend them.
But I will give you a link to How To Make Face Paint With Natural Ingredients, which is what I would do for face paint.
Face painting is fun! Just use a safe face paint.