My guest Barry Cik is a co-founder of Naturepedic, the leading brand for organic baby and children’s mattresses…and now also adult mattresses. 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. Some of the new Naturepedic adult mattresses are made of latex. We’ll talk about everything that has to do with latex: natural vs synthetic, Dunlop and Talalay, certified organic latex, and more. www.debralynndadd.com/debras-list/Naturepedic
LISTEN TO OTHER SHOWS WITH BARRY CIK
- Naturepedic Mattresses Now Certified “Nontoxic” By New GOTS Standard
- Why Your Newborn Baby Needs an Organic Crib Mattress
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
All About Latex Mattresses
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Barry Cik
Date of Broadcast: : July 31, 2013
DEBRA: Hi, this is Debra Lynn Dadd, and this is Toxic Free Talk Radio, where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world because there are many toxic chemicals around us in consumer products and in the environment, and just walking out our front door, it can be a toxic experience, as well as being inside our own homes because of so many toxic chemicals from consumer products.
But there are many, many things that we can do to choose less toxic products, to make things ourselves that are less toxic, to remove toxic chemicals from our bodies, and all kinds of things that we can do, so that we can create a safe, healthy world for ourselves, in which we can be happy, healthy, and productive, and do anything we want without being stopped by toxic chemicals.
Today is Wednesday, July 31, 2013, and I’m here in Clearwater, Florida. The sun is shining, no thunderstorms today. We had a big one last night though.
Today, we’re going to be talking about latex—latex mattresses. But before we do that, I want to give you a quote from Thomas Paine. Now, Thomas Paine has been called the Father of the American Revolution because he wrote back in the 17-something, he wrote a little book called “Common Sense.” And Common Sense was about being independent, and not being under the tyranny of British rule.
And he said, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”
We have it in power to begin the world over again.
And from Thomas Paine saying that in this little book called Common Sense, very brave and courageous people made the United States of America to be independent from being a British colony. And in that same spirit, we can make ourselves to be independent of toxic chemicals.
We have it in our power to begin the world over again, and how that not be toxic.
My guest today is Barry Cik, and he’s been on the show, a couple of times, but he has so much to say and so much that we can learn from. He’s the co-founder of Naturepedic, the leading brand of organic baby and children’s mattresses. And they now also are making adult mattresses.
So I wanted to have him on to talk about that.
As an environmental engineer, he understands so much about toxic chemicals, so I’ve learned so much from him. And he knows more than most product manufacturers because of his environmental engineer background. And he has a no compromise policy when it comes to choosing materials to make Naturepedic products.
So we’re going to talk today about the adult line for Naturepedic and, specifically, about latex, because there are some things we all should know about it, and some new things happening in the world.
Hi, Barry. Thanks for being with me.
BARRY CIK: Thank you. Hi, Debra. How are you?
DEBRA: I’m great. How are you?
BARRY CIK: Great. Thank you.
DEBRA: Good. First, just tell us a little bit about your background. I know that I keep saying you’re an environmental engineer, but would you tell us exactly what an environmental engineer does because I think some people may not know what that is.
BARRY CIK: I suppose it’s a pretty broad term these days. My particular background is, I’ve been chasing chemicals for a living for 30 years or so. But my background was mostly, or my experience was mostly in the industrial side, not so much in residential or consumer products on the residential side.
Back then, nobody was even thinking of issues with consumer products. They were just not on the radar until recently, until the last, I don’t know, 10 to 15 years, when things started to change. I was part of that change.
DEBRA: Well, we’re so happy that you are. So then what happened? Tell us the story of what happened about how you came to be making mattresses for babies and then adults.
BARRY CIK: 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. And I have to be honest about it. Until that day, I had never been in a baby store in my life. My wife used to take care of those things, and that’s just the way it was.
So 10 years ago, here I am, I walk into the store, read the product labels, read the law labels at the bottom of the mattress that says “under penalty of law, do not remove,” and so on. And I realized that the products contain all kinds of materials that have issues, and certainly, fire retardant chemical issues, plasticizer issues, and so on. And I wasn’t comfortable with that for my own grandchild.
I asked the salesperson if there’s anything else. And she said, “No, these are the way you make quality crib matresses.”
And I said, “Really?”
I was pretty surprised.
And then we went back and forth, and back and forth. And finally, she says to me, “Come on. If it wasn’t safe, the government wouldn’t allow it to be sold.”
So that was the moment of truth, when I realized—what I really realized is that the single biggest problem that we have is we really trust the government, and we really trust that if a product is on the shelf, the government will make sure that it’s safe.
DEBRA: Well, I used to trust the government before I found out that my immune system had been damaged by all those products that I trusted were safe.
BARRY CIK: Exactly.
DEBRA: I think what you just said, and what I just said is something that everybody needs to understand because I think that most people do trust the government, but we know from our experience, not only with—well, I know because of my own physical damage, but we’re learning more about the regulations, both of us, I know, that you’ve done a lot with that, that the regulations just aren’t there to protect us. And that’s part of what is being addressed by organizations, such as Safer Chemicals Healthy Families and organizations like that, that are working to get better regulations. And we very much need them.
I’m sure you agree with that.
BARRY CIK: Yes, absolutely. But along with that, everybody needs to understand that you just can’t assume that something is safe or healthy because it comes in a nice, pretty package. That’s just not the way it works.
One of the lessons that I learned on the corporate side, from the industry side of things, is that in virtually every corporate office, the unwritten rule is that safety equals compliance. If you make sure that your product is compliant with whatever regulations happen to be out there, then you have a safe product.
And your average typical corporate safety person or safety officer, his or her job is to make sure that the product is in compliance. They don’t go beyond that. Nobody thinks beyond that. Their attitude is, it’s not their job to think beyond that. It’s their job to produce products that are in compliance with the law.
DEBRA: So that’s showing that the corporations are just like the consumers in that they’re saying, “Well, the government is setting the standards, so the government must be right, and we don’t need to do anything beyond what the government tells us.”
And yet, other people, like you and I, think outside of that box.
BARRY CIK: Exactly. If the government is not focused on the issues, or not properly focused on the issues, and if Corporate America isn’t going to go beyond whatever is absolutely required of them, and if a typical consumer believes that, “Well, the government is taking care of that. I can’t deal with that issue. The government with deal with them,” then you end up with a big, huge, gaping hole, and nobody is paying attention.
DEBRA: So it’s a good thing that we are. We have to take a break. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio, and my guest today is Barry Cik, co-founder of Naturepedic, the leading brand for organic baby and children’s mattresses. And they now make adult mattresses. They’re at Naturepedic.com, and we’ll be back right after this.
= COMMERCIAL BREAK =
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd, and my guest today is Barry Cik. He’s the co-founder of Naturepedic, the leading brand for organic baby and children’s mattresses, and soon to be the leading brand of adult mattresses.
Barry, so let’s talk about latex because I know that you don’t include latex in your babies and kids mattresses, but you chose to have some latex mattresses for adults, and that I want to be clear that not all of your mattresses, adult mattresses have latex.
But you chose to use that. And so I want to talk about all of the issues that have to do with latex starting with—let’s talk about what is latex.
I have some things to say about it too, but I want us both to talk. So why don’t you start by telling us what latex is.
BARRY CIK: Well, latex is a more natural alternative to petrochemical foams, and it serves its purpose very nicely. It’s a more sustainable product, of course. It doesn’t have all the questionable chemicals that are found in petrochemical foams and so on.
And so it works.
Latex really comes from latex sap. There are many forms of latex, of course. But what’s important to us, it comes from latex sap, or rubber sap. The rubber that we know is mostly artificial, of course. But rubber, once upon a time, was actually a natural product.
Rubber sap comes from a tree, a rubber tree. It sounds almost funny, but it’s true. There are trees and this is mostly in Southeast Asia—Sri Lanka, Malaysia and so on, where rubber trees are very common. And you pretty much tap the tree similar, in general, similar to the way you might get maple syrup out of a tree.
It’s really not all that different.
So you tap the trees, and then you collect the sap, and then you can turn it into a foam. And that foam happens to be very comfortable, and it’s very easy to make a mattress, the filling of a mattress from that foam, and it works, and it replaces some of the petrochemical foams.
DEBRA: Now, I have mixed feelings about latex. And I agree with everything that you’ve said. It’s a more natural alternative to a petrochemical foam. But also, we know—it’s quite well-known that latex, people can develop allergies to latex, and that there are a lot of people who are allergic to it in many, many products. And that people are often looking for latex alternatives because of that.
In fact, I just had the occasion to go buy some disposable gloves because we’ve been having some health care going on in my home, and the health care worker wanted some gloves. And I went down to the store, and I had my choice between latex gloves and the non-latex gloves. And it turned out that the non-latex gloves were made out of polyvinyl chloride.
I thought now, “Which one of these two do I buy?”
But the reason that there has been a lot of discussion about latex, especially in hospitals and things is because people were developing latex allergies to them.
So you want to say anything about that?
BARRY CIK: Sure. So there is even a bigger point here that needs to be made, and that is when you’re looking for natural materials, or you’re looking for organic, these are all basically wonderful, and they sound wonderful. But sometimes we’re being a little bit too simplistic about it.
Let me give you a couple of examples.
Poison ivy is natural and probably organic, that doesn’t mean that you want to play with it.
I’ll give you another example.
When people get too focused on organic and don’t want to see the bigger picture, here’s my response. “Go please take a walk in the forest and start eating all the wild mushrooms.”
Within an hour, you’ll probably be dead, and guess what will kill you? Guess what we’ll kill you? An organic mushroom.
So there’s more to the issue than just the simplistic notions. And now, you could take that broader perspective and apply it to latex. Latex is basically a natural type product, but it happens to be allergenic. The proteins in the latex are allergenic, or potentially allergenic. Not to everybody, of course, but they are too to a large number of people.
Approximately 8% of the population is or easily becomes allergic to latex.
Now, the latex people try to minimize that by washing the proteins out of the natural rubber latex. And to a great extend, they are able to do that, of course, and that reduces the risk factor. But still, the point is, not everything that is natural is necessarily 100% perfect. That’s just not the reality. And latex is one of those items we are—yes, it’s a good alternative to petrochemicals, and as far as your gloves is concerned, if you’re not allergic, it’s probably the better alternative to the PVC.
DEBRA: I would agree.
BARRY CIK: But if you’re potentially allergenic, or had allergy issues, we probably would want to avoid the latex. And that’s why we’ve made a decision to make a distinction between baby products and adult products.
If you’re an adult, it’s a reasonable assumption that you know by now if you have any allergies, and certainly any allergies to latex, you would know that by now.
But for a baby, you just don’t know. And it’s even possible that a baby could become allergic even if a baby would not otherwise.
So for baby products, we take the position of no latex whatsoever. For adults, we go both ways. If you’re comfortable with the latex, we’re fine with it too.
DEBRA: Okay, good,. We need to take a break. And we’ll be back after this to talk more about latex with Barry Cic, co-founder of Naturepedic, and I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. We’ll be back.
= COMMERCIAL BREAK =
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd, and my guest today is Barry Cik, co-founder of Naturepedic, the leading brand for organic baby and children’s mattresses, and they’re now making adult mattresses too, which is what we’re talking about today.
I just wanted to say, before we get back into our conversation, Barry, just one more thing about what we were talking about before the break about allergies to latex. I want to make a distinction between people having individual allergies to something versus a substance being toxic.
To me, the difference is that a toxic chemical would be something that’s more universally injurious to cells in the body, regardless of one’s individual state. And then an allergy could be very individual. It’s a different system in the body.
Sometimes, I think, people get those two things confused.
So for latex, I would not say that latex is toxic. I don’t consider it to be a toxic material at all. But some people do have allergies to it, and allergies can be developed to it. It’s a choice that—it’s something you need to know about, and a choice that you make, just like if you know you’re allergic to seafood, you wouldn’t eat seafood. If you know you’re allergic to latex, you wouldn’t sleep on a latex mattress.
But it’s not something that is particularly going to harm you like a toxic chemical.
In my particular case, my body doesn’t like latex. I remember being exposed to it when I was a child. My grandmother had a sofa that had latex foam in it. And every time I sat on that sofa, it made me sick. And it wasn’t until I was an adult and I smelled latex, and I knew it was latex that I identified what it was.
And so I won’t buy a latex pillow or a mattress, but that doesn’t meant that I don’t recommend them for people who don’t have problems with the natural latex. It’s a natural material. There’s no reason why not to use it if it if you don’t have an individual problem with it.
All that said, let’s go on to—now, there are two different types of latex besides there being natural versus synthetic. There’s also the question of Dunlop or Talalay. Could you explain what those two things are?
BARRY CIK: The original process for curing latex is the Dunlop process. The Talalay process just adds several steps in terms of how they cure it, and how they mix the latex. And so the Talalay latex, until recently, has been considered a better latex. I’m using that in quotes. Some people say it’s a more comfortable latex. Some people say that maybe the second one is the more true, and that is that some people say that the Talalay latex feels a little bit more smooth and comfortable, and it’s more consistent. And that may be true.
But at the other hand, the Talalay latex does contain other ingredients, and it’s not as simple a process as the Dunlop. And that’s why when you go to natural and certainly, when you go to organic, you have to stick with the Dunlop, the more simple process, and stay away from the Talalay. The Talalay is not as natural a product as the Dunlop.
DEBRA: So you mentioned organic. There is now a Global Organic Latex Standard. Tell us about that because I know your latex is certified.
BARRY CIK: Correct. We only use GOLS—Global Organic Latex Standard.
DEBRA: Tell us about that and what is the standard for that.
BARRY CIK: So let me first tell you the background, so everybody understands how this happened. Basically, the latex rubber sap itself, the material that comes out of the tree, that’s under USDA National Organic Program Regulations. If you want that latex sap to be treated as organic, and you want to be able to call it organic, you have to enroll in the USDA Organic Program, of course, you can’t use pesticides and so on, and that latex can be organic.
The problem was that the USDA was not willing to certify the final latex foam that was created later on from the latex sap because that was outside the USDA jurisdiction. It’s been processed, it’s been treated, including some chemicals, not a lot, but it has been treated, and it’s just outside the USDA process. The USDA process basically does not want to go beyond the strict agricultural product. As long as it’s agricultural, USDA will certify it under the USDA. It can be certified under the USDA program.
Once it becomes some other kind of product, it’s been processed, the USDA just backs away at that point.
And so the latex foam people could not get their natural latex certified.
Now, let’s make a quick point here. The real problem is that the public, when the public is buying latex, they don’t know what they’re getting. Most of the time, it’s petro—I’m sorry?
DEBRA: Yes, I was just agreeing with you. They don’t know what they’re getting.
BARRY CIK: They don’t know what they’re getting. Most of the time, latex is petroleum, completely synthetic. So then the manufacturers who wanted to sell natural latex, they started calling it natural latex, but still, the public didn’t quite understand the difference, and then there was no certification.
And so natural became diluted as well because the term “natural” has no legal definition. So much of the natural latex is mixed with petroleum, so if it’s 51% “natural” and 49% petroleum, they can still call it natural. Once again, the public has no idea what they’re getting.
So some private people actually, some certifiers, the Control Union, which is well-known, very well-established, very well-respected, certifier in the organic world, they said, “Look, why don’t we just create a standard where if it’s really all natural latex, and it comes from the real rubber sap, let’s create a standard and let’s certify it.”
And they did. And the standard does recognize that it’s going to get treated in a factory, and there will be some chemicals that are used to treat it with, but at the end of the day, you can be sure that if it’s certified, it all comes from the rubber tree, and it’s basically a very natural product.
DEBRA: Good. We’ll talk more about this after the break. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd, and my guest is Barry Cik, co-founder of Naturepedic, and we’ll be right back with more about latex and mattresses.
= COMMERCIAL BREAK =
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd, and you can find out more about Toxic Free Talk Radio at ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com, especially find out who’s going to be the guests. All the guests for the week are listed at ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com. And you can also go to the archives and listen to guests from all the shows. They’re all listed there. If you like this particular show with Barry Cik, you can go listen to his other shows. You can find out all the different guests that had been on, and it’s all there at ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com.
So Barry, tell us about your new adult line. What’s special about these mattresses?
BARRY CIK: So it’s as follows—the growth of organic mattresses has been pretty spectacular for the past—or easily, 10 years, organic mattresses have come on the market and have pretty much exploded.
Organic mattresses, there are two sides to an organic mattress. One side is the fact that organic manufacturers tend to try to remove harmful chemicals as much as reasonably possible, they tend to avoid flame retardant chemicals or fire barriers, pretty much across the board, and just try to use healthier materials.
And then that’s the other side of the coin is what constitutes the healthier materials that they’re going to use instead of some of the conventional materials. And that’s where the term organic comes into play. And an organic mattress is a mattress that tends to use healthier materials.
Now, the industry has grown. There are many manufacturers and many fine manufacturers and each manufacturer has their own way of doing things.
The biggest single way that organic manufacturers make organic mattresses is they use organic or at least natural, more natural latex. Like I said at the beginning of the program, latex is a pretty good sustainable replacement for petrochemical foams. And so it lends itself to an organic mattress.
But the irony, of course, is that there’s so much latex in the organic world that consumers now are saying, “Do you have any other way to make an organic mattress?” And Naturepedic actually does not focus mostly on latex. Naturepedic focuses on using encased coils where we have steel coils encased with organic cotton. We use that as the core for most of our products, and we use organic cotton fill as filling over the core for most of our products.
So we use latex also, but not quite as much as some of the other manufacturers. The way we use latex is as one component.
We might have a layer of latex to add to the comfort in a particular mattress. We have one model which is a conventional all-latex mattress.
But that’s a minor part of our company. Most of our models have a combination of latex and encased coils. And then we have some models that are entirely latex-free for those people who don’t want latex.
And like I say, if you’re an adult and you know whether you’re allergic or not, and if you’re not allergic and you don’t care, either way, that’s fine. But if you do care, well, we’ll make the mattress without a drop of latex in it.
So we go both ways.
DEBRA: And you’re certified to make organic mattresses.
BARRY CIK: Correct. So there are three—
DEBRA: There are only one or two companies in the world that’s certified to make organic mattresses, isn’t that right?
BARRY CIK: Pretty much, yes, but it’s growing. The way it works is there are three certifications now that relate to mattresses.
The biggest of the three is GOTS, G-O-T-S, Global Organic Textile Standard. And those mattresses are, or those products, GOTS is not just for mattresses. GOTS is for any textile-related product. But it includes mattresses.
So the mattresses that happen to be certified under the GOTS Organic Program, there are two manufacturers who are certified under that program, and Naturepedic is one of the two. If you’re making just a latex, an organic latex bed, then there’s a new certification which is the GOLS, instead of the GOTS. And the GOLS stands for Global Organic Latex Standard, and there are now more than two manufacturers who are making the mattresses under that standard. There are three or four now who are making mattresses under that standard.
The third standard that’s applicable is what’s used to be known and still is the Organic Exchange 100 Standard. That standard—they used to be an organization called Organic Exchange. Now, it’s called Textile Exchange. And the organic certification program from that certification agency is now going to be called the Organic Content Standard.
But whatever. The point is that under that standard, they will certify that your claims to your organic components are, in fact, correct. That certification doesn’t apply to every single component in your mattress that applies to those components that you’re claiming are certified organic.
In any event, the GOLS, Global Organic Latex Standard, we are one of the few companies that are certified under that standard and all the latex in our beds are only GOLS or GOLS, some people are just calling it GOLS, certified latex.
DEBRA: Good. So I also want to say that you’re a family-owned company, and that all your products are made in the USA, and to very high workmanship standards. And that you have a very clean workspace, clean in the sense that people aren’t smoking or wearing scented products or things like that.
I’ve actually been to the Naturepedic—what do you call it? Workspace? Factory? I don’t want to call it a factory because it’s so un-factory-like. I haven’t been to the new one where they are right now, but I’ve been to the previous one, and it was just such a beautiful, I don’t want to use the word clean again, but it was just beautiful and orderly and simple and restful, not restful in the sense of, like there was no activity going on. But it was restful in a sense of just how it felt. And it felt good. And I can sense that good feeling in the mattresses. It’s just the kind of thing that you would want to sleep on.
I was very pleased at how well you’ve put your business together.
BARRY CIK: Well, thank you very much. The fact of the matter is that we do not allow any toxic chemicals in the facility whatsoever at any time. And it’s very clean, old-fashioned, kind of atmosphere.
Most of the employees are Amish craftsman, and they’re very good, they’re extremely good, frankly, at what they do. They don’t make very many mistakes, and when they do, they own up to it, and they make sure that it’s corrected.
They’re really highly motivated, highly qualified people, and they do an excellent job.
So yes, the joke that we have is that our factory really is your grandfather’s factory. If you can imagine—not that we don’t have modern equipment, yes, we do, but the overall atmosphere, it’s more of an old-fashioned, almost handmade kind of operation where everybody works together, and it’s—
DEBRA: Yes. I would like to—I have this picture still in my mind of seeing it because it’s so different. I want people to understand that this is a room, a big, clean room, there’s not even dust on the floor, and there are people working in an assembly line in the sense that one station are doing one thing, and then it gets passed onto the next station, and the next station.
But there are no conveyor belts. It’s not that kind of an assembly line. And so there are all these people doing their part of the mattress-making in a room together, cooperating together, to make this product. And this very caring family-feeling about the whole entire thing, and you really experience that being in that atmosphere, and I want people to know that this is not—these mattresses are not coming off of a factor assembly line. It’s not that kind of that thing at all. And I think that that really adds to the specialness of the product.
BARRY CIK: Thank you. And I should just mention—I don’t mean to go back to the old topic but I really do want to mention that one of the nice things about latex is that latex has a certain—people love this memory foam feeling. Of course, we would never use memory foam.
DEBRA: I’m sorry. I have to interrupt you because we’ve reached the end of our time. We have the music. So I guess we’ll have to you see on again. Thanks for being here. I’ve been with Barry Cik, founder of Naturepedics at Naturepedics.com. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd.