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 with hi first grandchild on the way, Barry was appalled to learn what toxic chemicals were used to make baby mattresses, and designed a safe mattress of his own. Last week Naturepedic mattresses received a new certification for the organic and nontoxic standards of the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS). Barry will explain this new “nontoxic” GOTS certification, as well as what it takes to have a GOTS certified organic mattress. www.debralynndadd.com/debras-list/Naturepedic
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
Naturepedic Mattresses Now Certified Non-Toxic by New GOTS Standard
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Barry Cik
Date of Broadcast: June 11, 2013
DEBRA: This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. And apparently, we have a little technical glitch there, but I’m here now. And it is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world. But even though there are toxic chemicals all around, we don’t have to get sick from them, we can remove them from our homes, we can remove them from our bodies. And that’s what we talk about here on this show.
It’s Tuesday, June 11th 2013. I’m here in Clearwater, Florida. And we’re right on the edge of a thunderstorm right now. You may hear some thunder in the background. We may have a power failure. But I’m just going to go on with my show despite the thunderstorms which are a regular summertime occurrence here.
My guest today is Barry Cik who is the founder of Naturepedic. And we’re going to talk about labeling mattresses and certifications of things. But first, I want to read you a quote. And every morning, I send out what I call words of wisdom, inspirational quotations. And this one is from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a philosopher from the 1800s in Germany. And he said:
“Things which matter most should never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
And I think that’s so applicable to what we’re talking about because things that matter most are our health and our ability to think and our spiritual awareness and our ability to be productive and our families and happiness and creativity. And they shouldn’t be at the mercy of things like toxic chemicals, especially toxic chemicals in products we don’t even need to have. And we don’t need to have toxic chemicals even in products that we do need to have—like beds for example. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about today.
Hi Barry! It’s so great to have you on.
BARRY CIK: Well, thank you, Debra. It’s a pleasure.
DEBRA: Now, I know you’ve been on the show about a month ago. So some of our listeners heard you speak before. But I’d like you to just introduce yourself again and tell us your story of what you’ve been doing in your life and how that made a difference when it was time for you to buy a mattress for your first grandchild.
BARRY CIK: Well, I’m a board certified environmental engineer. And I’ve been tracing chemicals for a living my entire adult life.
I’m also certified by the Institute of Profession Environmental Practice. I’m also a certified Hazardous Materials Manager. I’m an author of a textbook for government institutes. I’m a diplomat forensic engineer which entitles me to testify in court as an expert witness. I’m certified by the EPA and a few other smaller things. So, I’ve had some experience tracing chemicals.
And 10 years ago, that moment of truth came to me when my wife sent me to a baby store to buy a crib mattress for our first grandchild. I walked into the store, and there are plasticizers in the vinyl, there’s fire retardants in the polyurethane foam, there’s some pesticides in some of the products and so on. And I was pretty shocked! I just never realized that baby products would have these kinds of ingredients—not that I recommend them for adults either, but it was particularly shocking for baby products.
And so, one thing led to the other. And while I’ve been an environmental activist all my life, this really gave me a push to try to change the thinking in our overall society. It’s time to take more careful additives about the chemicals that we put into all of our products.
DEBRA: Yes, I agree. So then you didn’t like what you saw at the baby store, and you decided to design your own mattress and start Naturepedic. And the rest, as I say, is history!
Now Naturepedic is the leading brand for organic, baby and children’s mattresses. And they also make adult mattresses too.
There are lots of things we could talk about, but we’re going to typically focus today on how mattresses are labeled and certifications and what those certifications mean.
So Barry, would you start by talking about the Law Label, what it says, and where people can find it?
BARRY CIK: Sure! So there are many forms of certifications. The Law Label is actually the oldest form. It’s governed by state law. And Law Labels came about way back when, close to a hundred years ago, when mattress manufacturers realized—or at least some mattress manufacturers—that, “Hey, who opens up a mattress anyways? Nobody! So why do we have to be so cautious. We might make a few more dollars and use cheaper materials or inappropriate materials?”
And in fact, some mattresses, according to what I’ve been told, was just putting garbage inside their mattress. And consumers had no clue because the consumers can’t inspect what goes into a mattress.
So, there was a […] cry back then. It was of course before my time, but this is the way I understand it. There were unsanitary and unsafe materials being sold to the public. So this is really one of the first and earliest manifestations of government oversight and improper certification. And what happened was the state started enacting laws that said you have to put a label on every mattress. And it’s called a Law Label, almost like [unclear 06:56] term, but that’s what it was called. It’s the label that the law required you to do, so it’s called a Law Label. Some people called it a Law Tag. It means the same thing.
In effect, that particular government requirement, the Law Label mandates that the manufacturer indicate the filling material, the primary filling material of the mattress. So when you look at a Law Label, it will not tell you what the surface material is. In fact, the law doesn’t permit the manufacturer to indicate what the surface fabric is. The thinking behind the Law way back then was, “Well, we can look at the surface material ourselves. We don’t want you, the manufacturer, to highlight your nice surface material. We want you tell us what’s really inside it.”
DEBRA: But the surface material, you can’t always tell what the surface material is.
BARRY CIK: Well, that’s true today. But you see, back in 1920, you didn’t have any of the synthetics.
DEBRA: Oh, that’s true. That’s true. Basically, it was like glue and white stripe cotton ticking or something like that.
BARRY CIK: Yeah. So, they weren’t concerned with the surface material. The surface material of the mattress is called the ticking material. They weren’t concerned with that. It was probably cotton. It was probably organic cotton even though there was no official organic program at the time, but it probably was organic cotton.
But that wasn’t the point. The point was “Well, what are you guys stuffing the mattress with? That’s what you better tell us.”
So, until today, that is the requirement. You have to say what’s in the mattress.
Now, they don’t want you to say everything actually. I mean if you have just some thin fabrics that separate layers, they don’t want you to say that. For a long time, if you had a flame barrier, they didn’t want you to say that. They excluded that. Although now that’s changed.
But nonetheless, even though the Law Label is not exactly perfect, it still serves as a basic way to see what you’re buying. If you take a mattress, at one end—usually, the bottom end, but it doesn’t matter—you’ll have that Law Label. It will begin with the words “do not remove under penalty of law except by the consumer.” And that has to be on the mattress. And you could look at it, and it will tell you what the main ingredients are—or at least it will tell you to some degree what the main ingredients are. And it’s a very good way to see if your mattress has an inner spring or does not have an inner spring, if your mattress has polyurethane foam or cotton or polyester or whatever.
Now, the next thing to understand is that the descriptive words that are used (or at least that are supposed to be used) are also mandated. There is a national document that the state officials have put together that describes the wording that is permitted.
And you have to pick one word. Whatever you’re describing, you have to pick the word or the term that they want you to use for that material. And that’s good. That’s good because, for example, they won’t allow you to use brand names. You can’t just say, “This is filled with brand X whatever.” The consumer has no idea what that means. You have to use descriptive terms that the state Law Labels have agreed upon which, fundamentally, is a good thing.
There’s one small drawback. It’s not the biggest deal, but it’s a small drawback. And that is they don’t allow the use of the term “organic cotton.” So if you’re actually going above and beyond, and you’re not just giving the consumer cotton, but rather, you’re giving the consumer organic cotton, the law label cannot use that term. You must use the term that they have decided you have to use.
DEBRA: Do you know why they won’t allow “organic cotton”?
BARRY CIK: Oh, only because the terms that are approved were approved many, many years ago. The term “organic cotton” was not part of the vocabulary at the time.
Really, truthfully, until the 80s or the 90s, the term “organic cotton” pretty much didn’t exist. It was way back when cotton was organic cotton. And one of my little projects for the next few years is going to be “Let’s go to the Law Label people and see if they will permit the use of the term ‘organic cotton’ instead of just regular, blended cotton.” Blended cotton batting, that’s what they want you to say. Although that might not be so easy, to get them to change it because I can see them objecting and saying, “We’re not interested in how you grew the cotton. We’re not interested in the environmental benefits to society. That’s not the point. If it’s cotton, just tell people that it’s cotton.” So I can see them not changing their rules quite so fast. But hopefully, they will.
There is one manufacturer that I noticed has a second label attached to the first label. And the second label says, “Well, the state of California does not permit us to say it’s organic cotton on the Law Label, but we just want you to know it is organic cotton.” I thought that was pretty cute. It’s fine! I fully support that.
DEBRA: I like that too.
But I want to back up for a minute. You used the term “blended cotton.” What’s being blended?
BARRY CIK: Well, let me explain that. This goes back to an earlier era. Where the different parts of the cotton plant were distinguished one from the other, when you harvest a cotton plant, you have long hair fibers and you have short hair fibers.
And the long hair fibers are typically—typically—used, for example, in making a textile, like a shirt or something. The short hair fibers are more commonly used in filling materials.
But the other way of distinguishing the different parts of the cotton plant are that the surface material is the cleanest and the nicest looking. And then, as you go different layers, you start getting more of the leaves that get mixed in and hard to get out.
And then, the worst—I shouldn’t say “the worst.” The least pretty and the least “pure” I guess part of the cotton plan is called the motes. And the motes sometimes get mixed in.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the motes or anything wrong with any part of the cotton plant. But back in the old days, they made a big deal about which part of the cotton plant you were using.
The reason they made it a big deal is because, back in the olden days, almost all consumer products, whether it was clothing or whether it was home furnishings like a coach or a mattress or whatever, all these things were made from cotton. So the part of the cotton plant that you used became very important.
And blended just means, well, it’s a mix of all the parts of a cotton plant.
DEBRA: All the parts of the cotton plant, yeah. It doesn’t mean polyester. They didn’t have such things then.
We need to go to a commercial break. But we’ll be back in a few minutes, more with Barry Cik, founder of Naturepedic. We’re talking about labeling mattresses—and particularly, organic mattresses. And we’ll be talking more about that after the break.
I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And my guest today is Barry Cik, founder of Naturepedic. And I don’t know if you just heard that, but we just had a big clap of thunder here. It sounds like the storm is getting closer.
Naturepedic is the leading brand of organic baby and children’s mattresses. And they now make adult mattresses too.
So Barry, let’s go along chronologically. I think that the first thing that was certified organic for mattresses was the organic cotton that went inside, right?
BARRY CIK: Well, all cotton used to be organic. But then they started growing cotton with pesticides. And the use of pesticides in cotton is tremendous. I mean I don’t remember the exact statistic. But a huge percentage of pesticides used across the world are used for cotton production.
DEBRA: …more than for food. There’s more pesticides in cotton production than in food production. And the pesticides stay in the cotton […]
I don’t know if some people had overseen cotton growing in the field. I have because I live in California. I would drive down the Central Valley and there’s cotton, cotton, cotton, cotton. And so if you’ve ever seen a cotton plant, that ball of cotton grows like a cotton ball that you would buy at the drugstore in the plant, except it’s larger (about the size of a tangerine I think). And then it gets sprayed with pesticides. Whatever pesticide had been sprayed on it continue to be there if you buy cotton batting. The pesticides don’t go away. They’re still there.
BARRY CIK: That’s correct. And so what happens chronologically is, for decades, cotton was treated with pesticides. And at the same time, for decades, synthetic fabrics came into being—certainly polyester and vinyl and nylon and so on. And then, people began waking up and saying, “You know, this is not really sustainable. And this is not appropriate for our environment.
It’s time to go back to a more natural fiber or fabric.”
And of course, cotton is the most commonly used. There are other fabrics of course, other natural fabrics. Cotton is certainly the most common used. People said, “Let’s go back to the natural. But let’s not use all the pesticides.”
So then, here comes the advent of the modern organic cotton. It’s the same cotton as your great grandfather’s cotton. But we have to be careful today that we don’t want to use the pesticides that have come along the way. We want to go back to the original cotton that was grown naturally and no GMO’s either—which is another problem.
GMO’s are all over the place. And the natural community wants to just go back to pure, natural cotton. No GMO’s, no synthetic fertilizers, no pesticides, no herbicides and so on.
DEBRA: So then tell us about the certification for organic cotton.
BARRY CIK: Okay! So there are two certifications that are relevant. And let’s go to both of them. So the first one is the USDA, United States Department of Agriculture. Everybody knows that label because when you go into the supermarket and you buy organic tomatoes or cherries or whatever, you’ll have that circle and it’ll say “USDA Organic.” And you’ll see that on every organic food item. You’ll see that label. And what that means is that that item—tomatoes, cherries or whatever—was grown organically.
Now, there is a program run by the USDA. And if you want to grow your crop organically, you must, by law, be enrolled in the USDA certification program.
Now, the USDA certification program, the way it works is they wrote the bible as to what you are permitted to do and what you’re not permitted to do. Then what they did is they turned around and they approved approximately 50 organizations to certify products under the USDA program.
So, if you want to get your product certified, you have to go to one of those 50 approved certifiers who have the authority to certify you. And then if you are certified, you can put that USDA label on your product which is why, for example, when you walk into the supermarket and you buy organic anything, even like an organic orange juice, you look at the container, you’ll see the USDA logo, and then you’ll also see somewhere on the product who is the certifier. There are many certifiers. You’ll see the name of the certifier. And that name will always be one of those 50 approved certifiers. That’s how the system works with the USDA.
Now, the USDA program only applies to agricultural products. It does not apply to finished goods like a shirt or a mattress or any other finished product. Once it’s been processed, and it’s no longer an agricultural item, you don’t qualify for USDA certification.
Now, the raw organic cotton that goes into our mattresses, like all raw organic cotton, that one item is certified by the USDA because that’s still an agricultural item. The USDA program does not distinguish or care whether you’re going to eat the product or you’re not going to eat the product. So there’s no difference between a tomato plant and a cotton plant. As far as the USDA is concerned, if it was grown on a farm, and it was grown to the organic standards, it’s part of the USDA program.
So, the raw cotton that we use and that goes into any cotton product, even a shirt or whatever, is going to be USDA.
Now, one more point here. When it comes to the raw agricultural product, regardless of whether it’s a tomato or a cotton, by law, you cannot sell that product and call it “organic” unless it’s been certified by the USDA program. There’s no other certification available.
DEBRA: Okay. Well, we’ll hear more about organic cotton and about the GOTS standard, which is Global Organic Textile Standard when we come back from the break.
I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. And my guest is Barry Cik, founder of Naturepedic. We’ll be back in a moment.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And my guest today is Barry Cik, founder of Naturepedic, the leading brand of organic baby and children’s mattresses. And they now make adult mattresses too.
So Barry, before the break, we were talking about the USDA organic certification for cotton and how that only applies to the cotton inside a mattress, but it doesn’t apply to the mattress or any other finished goods as a whole.
So that brings us now to the GOTS certification which does certify finished goods as a whole to be organic, yes?
BARRY CIK: Correct! The next step is the USDA only certifies the raw cotton. Once that raw cotton is transformed into anything, it then goes to a different certification.
For example, even if you just turn that raw cotton into a fabric, once it’s turned into a fabric, it now goes to a different certification which is called the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or commonly just called “gots.”
Now, the GOTS standard actually doesn’t compete with the USDA standard. The GOTS standard actually goes along with the USDA. It just picks up where USDA drops off. So when the organic cotton gets transformed into something, the USDA drops off and is no longer involved, and the GOTS picks up from there.
The main item on the GOTS side is that 95% of the fiber material in the product that needs to be certified, 95% of that, has to come from USDA certified organic cotton or organic whatever the fiber might be. It could be other fibers like wool or flax or whatever, whatever it is. It’s usually cotton.
So, that’s the GOTS program. The GOTS program then deals with practical consumer goods that are made from the raw organic cotton and so on.
For example, a shirt. If you want to make a shirt with pure 100% organic cotton, you’d go to GOTS, and GOTS will certify the shirt. That’s where GOTS come in.
Now, there are two points here. The first point that’s important to remember is that GOTS is voluntary. GOTS is not mandatory, whereas the USDA is mandatory. Let me explain. If you want to sell raw, organic cotton, you must be enrolled in the USDA program. That’s the law. The only thing in the law regarding organic is raw organic controlled by the USDA. The law doesn’t go beyond that. So if you want to make a shirt, the law does not mandate that you have to have an organic certified to call it organic. You can just say, “You know what? I made this from organic cotton” or “I made this from 30% organic cotton.”
You still have to be truthful of course. The Federal Trade Commission just recently, in the past year or so, published a document called The Green Guide which, among other things, reinforces the fact that you have to be honest and clear about your claim.
But nonetheless, aside from the FTC control and jurisdiction, there are no government organic certification programs for consumer goods made with organic material.
DEBRA: Okay, wait. I just want to be clear for a second that if I was a manufacturer, and I was making a shirt, I could say, “My shirt is made from USDA certified organic cotton.” But I can’t say that it’s an organic shirt.
BARRY CIK: I would agree with you, or to be more accurate, I would like to agree with you. But it’s not quite as clear cut as those of us in the organic industry would like it to be. It’s a little bit of a gray area. If you called it an “organic shirt,” as long as you didn’t use the word “certified”—you certainly couldn’t say “certified organic shirt.” But if you just said “organic shirt,” I don’t think the FTC would like it, and I know that the Organic Trade Association would not like it, but is the FTC going to come after you? I would say no, they probably aren’t because they have much more pressing issue than to deal with some of the fine points. And this is one of the fine points.
DEBRA: Yeah, yeah.
BARRY CIK: So, unfortunately, at the end of the day, there is quite a bit of greenwashing going on when it comes to organic claims in consumer products because there is no very strong, clear standards—at least legal standards. They’re not that strong. They’re not that clear.
But if you really want to buy something and be sure that it’s an organic item, it’s best to look for something that’s “certified organic.”
Now, we get to the labeling issue. If it was certified by GOTS, then you can say, “This is a certified organic item,” whether it’s a shirt or a mattress or whatever. And that’s the value of labeling.
DEBRA: I just want to say something before we start talking about GOTS because I do want you to explain GOTS.
I’ve had a fair amount of experience reading websites. And I say that kind of touch-and-cheek because that is what I do all day, read websites [unclear 31:40] organic products and non-toxic products. But I’ve also been on the other side where I’ve written advertising copy and product labels and things like that.
And I know that one of the things that happens—and I can tell not only from my experience in writing, but also from my experience reading—is that, lots of times, people who are doing this writing—there’s another clap of thunder—really don’t understand what they’re writing about or what the rules are. And so they’ll just say, “This is our organic cotton shirt” or “This is our organic mattress,” and they don’t know what the FTC has to say.
And so, it really is up to us as consumers that if we see places like that, we need to dig a little deeper and say, “Well, is this thing called ‘organic cotton shirt’ made from certified organic cotton?”—or in this case, we’re talking about mattresses.
I’m going to go ahead and let you speak because we’re actually coming to the end of our hour. And I want to make sure that you talk about GOTS. Go ahead!
BARRY CIK: Oh, okay. So, GOTS goes one step further. GOTS also recognizes that, when you make a consumer good, you might need to add—and in fact, usually, you do need to add—certain components that are not organic at all.
For example, on a shirt, you might need to add a button. And you can’t really use cherry pits as your buttons. It doesn’t work!
Nobody will buy the shirt. Or in a mattress, you can’t just fill the mattress with organic cotton because it won’t be a mattress, it would be a big, huge, oversized pillow. So, in a mattress, you need something in the cord to give it shape and to give it firmness and so on.
So, GOTS actually does two things. GOTS will guarantee that the fiber part of the product will be at least 95% certified organic cotton or whatever it is—cotton or wool or whatever it is. That’s one half of the GOTS program.
The other half of the GOTS program is that any accessories that you need in the product has to meet a GOTS non-toxic standard. You can’t just add toxic chemicals. You have to use materials that are reasonably non-toxic per the GOTS program.
And then they will allow you to add those obviously non-organic components into your product.
Now, if you only have organic fiber fabric, then you can only claim that the organic fiber or fabric is GOTS certified. That’s as far as you can really go. But if you present your entire product to GOTS, including the non-organic components that you happen to need for your product, as long as you meet their non-toxic standard, they will certify the entire product under the organic program even though the shirt has buttons or the mattress has an inner spring or whatever.
So that’s how the GOTS program works. And the benefit to the consumer is if the overall item was certified to GOTS, the consumer can rely on that and be sure that this is a high quality product that’s free of toxic chemicals, and it’s a kind of product that a consumer hopefully would want to have. And that’s the essence of the GOTS program.
DEBRA: I need to stop you there because we actually are at the end of our time. You’ve explained everything so clearly.
Our listeners can go see all your certified products at Naturepedic.com. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. You’ve been listening to Toxic
Free Talk Radio with Barry Cik from Naturepedic who’s been our guest. And you can go to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com for more information about the show.
If you enjoyed today’s show, please tell your friends! I’m Debra Lynn Dadd.