Different types or categories of mattresses

Hi Robert101.

[quote] I was wondering if these comments made by them is true or means nothing:

  • when mattress marketed as 100% natural latex it only needs 15% natural the rest can be synthetic… [/quote]

15% natural, 80% synthetic is called Blended and calling it 100% Natural because it contains natural rubber would be misleading the customer. If you have any doubt regarding the specifics of any mattress, then make sure to ask the retailer/manufacturer of the mattress you are considering to provide you with content of the mattress would be the retailer and/or manufacturer of the product. Better manufacturers or retailers like our Trusted Members are very helpful on the phone and if there is any confusion about what is on their site they do a great job in providing accurate information and any clarifications. Just to clarify ….the choice between different types and blends of latex is more of a preference and budget choice rather than a “better/worse” or a safety choice and any type or blend of latex will be a safe and also a durable material relative to other types of foam materials. The real difference between the two is that Natural latex (NR) is more elastic and stretchy and synthetic latex (SBR) is more abrasion resistant and can be made more resistant to aging degradation. NR is more expensive than SBR. Blends are often used for reasons of cost, desirable combinations of certain latex qualities, and ease of working with the material. NR is often used for its natural qualities and because it is more elastic and resilient.

There is also more about the different types and blends of latex in post #6 here but all of the latex you are likely to encounter (either Dunlop or Talalay that is made with either natural or synthetic rubber or a blend of both) will have a reliable safety certification such as Oeko-Tex, Eco-Institut, or Greenguard Gold (see post #2 here) and based on actual testing I would consider any type or blend of latex to be a very “safe” material in terms of harmful substances and VOC’s.

All materials offgas (even fruit) and the real issue is how much and whether the offgassing is harmful. I would keep in mind that every mattress in the industry contains some type of “chemicals” and that even pure water is a chemical. The real issue that I would focus on is safety which depends on the specific chemicals and the amount of each chemical (safety is dosage related) and the only way to identify any safety issues would be based on the lab testing and certifications for the materials and components in the mattress or the mattress as whole. And then you can focus on the smell.

In very general terms the only reliable way to assess the “safety” of different materials is based on lab tests and the certifications they have for harmful substances and VOCs (regardless of whether they are organic or natural or synthetic) so that you have some assurance than the VOCs are below the testing limits for the certification. If the materials in a mattress or the mattress itself has a reliable “safety” certification then for most people they would certainly be “safe enough” … regardless of the type of material or the name of the manufacturer on the label.

Latex is generally able to meet more stringent standards for VOCs and harmful substances and if you wish to get into the very fine details about safety and certifications there is more about the different types of organic and safety certifications such as Oeko-tex, Eco-Institut, Greenguard Gold, C2C, and CertiPUR-US in post #2 here and more about some of the differences between organic and safety certifications in post #2 here and there are also some comments in post #42 here that can help you decide whether an organic certification is important to you for environmental, social, or personal reasons or whether a “safety” certification is enough.
CertiPur tests for harmful substances and VOC’s in the polyfoam and memory foam used in mattresses. They have a list of mattress manufacturers here which are certified and the foam producers that are certified are listed here. You can see what they test for in more detail here and here

There are many complex issues that are connected to the safety of mattresses and mattress materials (and about the chemicals that are used in our society in general) and there is a great deal of inaccurate and misleading information on all sides of the conversation (see post #2 here). There is also very little definitive information available because in most cases the approach of the regulatory authorities is more towards allowing the use of chemicals until the evidence that they are unsafe becomes overwhelming and then changing regulations after the evidence becomes available than “proving safety” before they are approved (see post #19 here). On the other side of the issue there are many sources of information that use fear mongering tactics and make exaggerated claims that almost everything is “unsafe” unless it is completely natural or organic which to me is misleading and exaggerated as well. I believe that any extreme position on either side of the argument is unlikely to be accurate.

[quote] *the chemicals they add to make it fire retardant -are they really unhealthy?
and if the above is true how would one know if the latex sold by online companies is mostly synthetic or not? [/quote]

There is a lot of misleading information in the industry about fire retardants and “chemicals” ranging from significant “fear mongering” on one side to completely minimizing fire retardants as an issue at all on the other. Like most issues that arouse strong feelings or controversy the most reliable and “accurate” information tends to be in between both polar extremes so there is “some truth” that “some mattresses” may use some chemicals that some people would find questionable or wish to avoid. Some people may also wish avoid certain types of synthetic foams or fabrics as well even if they have been tested for harmful substances and VOC’s and would be considered “safe enough” by most people.

There are many people in the industry that IMO exaggerate the risk (usually in an effort to sell some very costly mattresses) and seem to believe (or at least want their customers to believe) that every mattress except for an “organic” mattress (however they define this) is somehow “loaded with chemicals” to prevent them from catching fire which is far from the truth but this type of misinformation tends to scare people and lead people down a rabbit hole of conflicting and misleading information … and of course is exaggerated and somewhat ridiculous.

If your concerns are more about safety, then testing standards such as Oeko-Tex and Eco-Institut are the most important elements, but this is not so much about synthetic, natural, or organic as it is about the materials that are used in many brands. All the latex you are likely to encounter (synthetic or natural or blended) has been tested for harmful substances and VOC’s and certified as “safe” by one of these so safety needn’t be a concern for most people regarding latex of any kind. The issues surrounding “green, organic, natural, sustainable, or ecofriendly” and many other vague terms that are related are a much more complex subject that is different from “safe” and really involves research into the specific issues that are important to each person on an individual level and into each material that is in a mattress. For most people … checking “safety” certifications or organic certifications would probably be enough and would be the limit of the research they were willing to do because more than this can involve some very complex research and still produce no easy or clear answers to the most important question of “how safe is safe enough for me?” and each person may have a different answer to this that they are comfortable with.

Hope this helps