I just want to give a word of warning to anybody who is at all chemically sensitive or has any sort of lung or breathing problems. Recently, after a great deal of time and searching for an affordable mattress I could breath on, I thought I’d come across a great find when I found a Saatva set at a local thrift shop for about 1/4 of what it would cost online. I was told it was a new but slightly imperfect set donated by the manufacturer. I was really excited but before buying I went to the Saatva webpage to double check what was in their fire barrier, as I have had a great deal of trouble with fire barriers in particular which has made my mattress search a true pain.
The Saatva website stated that the flame retardant was a “thistle fire barrier”, made from thistle wood pulp and a bit of polyester. That sounded like it couldn’t get into my lungs, so I happily bought the mattress set. Unfortunately after hauling the mattress up the stairs and getting it out of the plastic, I found that it did indeed cause burning and irritation similar to what I’ve experience with other fire barriers. I do know about “off gassing” but based on my experience I am sure my lung irritation is coming from the fire barrier… also based on my experience with trying older used mattress sets, this problem NEVER goes away no matter how you let it “air out”.
Ok, so now I was sorely dissapointed because after paying what to me was a good chunk of money for a green mattress specifically because I thought I would have no breathing troubles, I was indeed having breathing troubles. So I contacted Saatva and asked if maybe there was something else in the fire barrier, I was specifically wondering if it could be silica based on things I had read. The response I got told me that there “could” be silica of some sort used in the binder of the flame barrier and that if I had any sort of sensitivity to silica then it “would not be the right mattress for me”. This would have been great information to have BEFORE I bought the mattress.
Now the thrift shop won’t do a refund, Saatva ignored my plea for them to help, I am out my money and I have a mattress that’s causing me the same old problems. At least I didn’t pay a 1,000 bucks for it like some people but for me that money really counted.
I want to warn everybody with ANY lung sensitivity to be very careful because the website does not (or did not as of this writing) give full disclosure. It said thistle and polyester, period, but there is definitely something ELSE in there.
All fire barriers other than wool would have something other than a viscose/rayon material (such as the thistle) or polyester in the fire barrier so your “warning” would apply to almost every mattress sold in North America not just to Saatva (which is more transparent than most manufacturers about the materials in their mattresses … see post #1 here). If people were to follow your advice the only mattresses that they would be able to consider (at least without a prescription that would allow a manufacturer to make a mattress for them with no fire barrier at all) would use wool for a fire barrier because all mattresses sold in the US are required to pass the fire regulations. If it is a viscose/silica fire barrier then for most people it would be safe (see post #2 here).
It would be very uncommon for a store to refund a returned, used, or liquidated mattress and there would be nothing that a manufacturer could do either because these types of purchases of a mattress that has no warranty are always “buyer beware”.
That would depend on how much research someone was doing into fire barriers but for most people that were focused on researching fire barriers in the first place (or who have chemical sensitivities) they would probably realize that they were being more transparent than most manufacturers about their fire barrier (most manufacturers provide even less information than this) and they would probably realize that this was some type of rayon/viscose/polyester inherent fire barrier. I would at least give them credit for being more transparent than most manufacturers that don’t provide any significant information about their fire barriers at all.
The problem with this is that you don’t know for certain what is causing your sensitivity because there are also other materials in a mattress that some people can be sensitive to (such as memory foam) and you may be sensitive to some fire barrier materials and not others. These types of “blanket” and non specific warnings that are based on an individual sensitivities rather than “unsafe materials” can lead people to become overly concerned about issues that may not even apply to them. It would be like saying “nobody should buy a mattress that contains wool because I’m allergic to wool”. While I agree with you that there is too little transparency about fire barriers in the industry … those manufacturers that do disclose some information about their fire barriers are at least taking a step in a good direction and I don’t think this would be a reason to single them out for criticism when most of the industry is even less transparent than they are.
Aramid or Para Aramid fibers (such as Nomex or Kevlar) are used in bulletproof vests and are occasionally used as a fire barrier fabric or as part of a blended fabric but they are more commonly used as the thread in other types of fire barriers. You can see a few comments about them at the end of post #13 here. You can see a Material Safety Data Sheet for Nomex here and for Kevlar here. While they are also synthetic (and some people wish to avoid all synthetic materials), I would consider them to be “safe” as well.
This is certainly true for much of the mainstream industry but isn’t as true for many retailers or manufacturers that are much more knowledgeable and transparent about the materials in their mattresses and are more focused on helping their customers make more informed choices. The key is to know how to differentiate between them.
Hopefully the next time you buy a mattress you will know to do a little more due diligence about the materials in a mattress and any refund or exchange policy before you make your purchase instead of after it (especially if you are chemically sensitive or sensitive to certain materials) and it may also be helpful if you purchase a mattress from a more knowledgeable retailer other than a thrift shop who was most likely selling a mattress that was a comfort or a warranty return and would have very little knowledge about the mattresses they sell.
I also hope that you also do a little more research before posting comments on other sites that unintentionally or not … may do more to mislead people than help them.
You may be the coolest cucumber I’ve ever encountered online! Your responses are always precise, objective, and unapologetic because they have no reason to be. I just read your back-and-forth with Essentia from 2012, and my only plea is for you to immerse yourself in politics at some point in time, in an effort to right an even bigger ship than the mattress industry.
Honestly, this site has been an invaluable resource in my search for a new mattress, and I truly appreciate the effort you put forth to make it what it is.
If “exhausted” does not want your expert advice, I’ll gladly step in their place to listen to whatever you bring to the table.
Thanks for the kind comments … and for putting a smile on my face (and on my fiance’s face as well)
Although it’s off the topic of mattresses … I completely agree with you that our “ship of state” is heading in some very questionable and precarious directions. While I don’t think you will ever see me in the political arena (although my fiance agrees with you :unsure: ) … this and other closely related topics that I’m also passionate about have been the subject of many “deep dive” conversations with people I have known over a period of many years. I’d like to believe that one by one they have had some influence in encouraging independent thinking and thoughtful analysis that is free from the mainstream influences that rarely go beyond sound bites. I’ve also been fortunate to see some of these “grassroots” conversations spread further afield and into younger generations and their peer groups and I’m hopeful that as they join with many other “streams” that share similar thoughts they will begin to have a growing effect on the main stream … and help to influence some course corrections that are sorely needed.
So back to the more mundane topic of mattresses (where we get to dream about what could be) … I’m glad that the site has been helpful and I’m looking forward to finding out what you end up deciding … and of course any comments or questions you may have along the way.