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How do I order a mattress without trying it?
It’s easier than you may think. Years ago, a study found that the average time a person spends lying on a mattress in a store is less than two minutes. That’s a very short period of time to determine if a mattress is right for you. At my factory, your mattress is custom made to meet your precise characteristics of height, weight, age, and sleeping position, as well as several other factors. After an in-depth interview with one of our highly trained Product Specialists at Lifekind, they make a recommendation. They stand behind that recommendation with the best 90-day, one-time Comfort Exchange and Pillow Top Loaner programs in the organic bedding industry.

Walt Answers Your Questions
Why is there so much confusion about organic mattresses?

The easy answer is because until recently there has been no enforcement by the USDA or the FTC regarding inaccurate advertising claims made by retailers on the web and in print media. I have seen retailers claim that their mattresses are "USDA and NOP certified" (no such thing is possible) or that they are "chemical free" (also impossible), or that they have been approved by some make-believe list combination of letters which in many cases represent organizations created by the sellers themselves. and Mattress-review sites can be found that have no criteria, or identification as to who is doing the ranking (which is usually the #1 company on the list 99% of the time). Lists like these, with unidentified sponsors, are called propaganda - you have no idea who said it and no way to know or verify the criteria used to make the evaluation.

When I wrote Toxic Bedrooms: Your Guide to a Safe Night's Sleep in 2006, I tried to give consumers the information they needed to understand a decision that they make infrequently, and have little experience with. My new book, coming out at the end of November Sleep Safe in a Toxic World, includes a chapter on greenwashing, updates Federal and State legislation pertaining to claims and raw materials, and new material on bedbugs. It seems that I can never anticipate all the individual questions people have, or the confusion that has been caused by clever sales and marketing people trying to convince buyers that they have the best product at the lowest price.

So... here is my blog that will allow you to ask me about any claim or confusing information you have heard about mattresses. I will endeavor to be objective, but please be aware from the outset that I have spent many years trying to create the purest mattresses possible, so some degree of bias is realistically always going to occur.

My preference is not to put down competitors, so if you can phrase your questions relative to a specific representation that has been made to you or a general concern you have, I will respond with not only my opinion, but references to legislation or other source materials that I am aware of. Go ahead and submit your question here or on our Facebook page, and I will start answering!

Should Mattresses Have a Warning Label Like Cigarettes?

Although the first article connecting smoking and cancer was published in the British Medical journal in 1938, the first solid epidemiological evidence linking smoking to cancer was published in England in 1950. In the United States, the first health Warning appeared on a pack of cigarettes in 1966 and then it was only a mild "Caution smoking may be hazardous to your health."

Various influencers and lobbing activities kept the warning off the product for 16 years.

I believe mattresses can potentially cause similar health concerns, and that these products are presented to the public without any product warnings whatsoever.

Is My Memory Foam Mattress A Health Concern?

In 2006, I published the first definitive list of chemicals out gassing from typical memory foam mattresses. Nine of these chemicals are recognized as carcinogens by just about every significant health organization in the world. And do you know what has happened? Nothing.

Perhaps a billboard that read; Buy A Memory Foam Mattress & Breathe Carcinogens For Free would get the attention of the Consumer Products Safety Commission?

I have been sleeping on a memory foam mattress for 10 years ... I am wondering if the foam has finished outgassing by now and is safe?

"I have been sleeping on a memory foam mattress topper for over 10 years. I just now learned how incredibly toxic they are. Yikes! I have not had any health problems and am wondering if the foam has finished outgassing by now and is safe?

Also, the foam is on top of a futon which is at least 25 years old. Could that futon be outgassing as well?" — Nicole, Colorado Springs, CO

Unfortunately, if you look at the inside of your car windshield it will be obvious that even on old cars the inside of the window smears. These are VOCs, and while they certainly do dissipate over time, they never stop outgassing.

As we age our bodies are exposed to higher and higher levels of chemical exposures that accumulate in our bodies. While some people can smoke for 60 years and never get cancer, some only breathe second hand smoke and get the disease.

We are all different, and as my book Sleep Safe in a Toxic World states, the best choice you can make is to avoid as many chemicals as you can. I call it the Avoidance and Substitution Rule. Avoid whatever you can with chemicals and substitute the product with the least chemical signature for any products that you can't avoid.

The futon is a different issue.

I assume it is all cotton as that was the vast majority in that time frame. If so, the outgassing does not concern me as much as the dust mite and bed bug issues.

25 years is a good life, and if you can afford it, getting it out of the house when your new mattress and bedding arrives is advisable.

How much deflection or body impression does your warranty cover?

Our warranty does not cover body impressions, since they are not a structural defect. The natural materials we use are intended to conform to the individual characteristics of each sleeper, and body impressions are caused by the normal settling and compacting of the materials.

I hope that provides you with the information you need for now, and again, thank you for writing.

What do you think of the recent Occupy Wall Street news?

Why are Americans clogging intersections in large and small cities from New York to Portland? In my opinion, it really isn't too complicated. The protesters are desperately trying to show the nation that they believe the American people are no longer being fairly represented within the economic structure of this country.

In the past few weeks, we have all seen network footage that seems intent on ridiculing and marginalizing these people, and we listened to a variety of elected and nonelected voices question the purposes and importance of the protestors. But I believe that the focus of these communicators should be on the fact that these people have been left with few choices, and they are tired of being victims.

Which begs the question, victims of whom?

If you ask them, they will point to the banks and other financial institutions, Congress, past and present Presidents, the Federal Reserve, and large corporations, but I think the answer is far broader.

While most of us are not protesting, I think we are all victims.

We live in a society that has been borne of a culture in which greed has been permitted, and often encouraged, with little concern for overall social accountability — the consequences of one's behavior. This was not the intent of our founders.

John Locke (1632-1704) greatly influenced our Constitution, as well as much of our Western political philosophy. Dr. Locke was fascinated with how the rules of human nature influence the rules of moral behavior and how they interacted.

Locke was an important thinker on individual liberty and personal rights, and was respected by the likes of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. Dr. Locke balanced the individual's actions against the consequences of those actions using a moral compass that he called THE NATURAL LAW: "No one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions." To paraphrase, don't pursue a goal whereby you make a victim of someone else.

Locke made the point that for an economic system to work it must protect individual rights, but it cannot work if that system exercises those rights without respect for the rights of others.

I believe that our system is failing because the majority of our institutions have no regard for, or feel any social responsibility for, the country as a whole. America's corporations have lost their moral compass, and if you suggest this they cry socialism. Corporations — and those who run them — simply have all the money and power to influence anything they want, and the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision put the icing on the cake. Our representatives have permitted it, and our Supreme Court has enshrined it.

In her book Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand said that there is nothing wrong with greed, and I agree. Greed is the energy that motivates us to get out of bed in the morning. But where is the counter balance to greed? What is it that prevents those seeking their own agendas from trespassing on the rights of other individuals, to make them victims for their own benefit?

In her book, Rand described a Western society in which government over-restricted the rights of entrepreneurs, and the entrepreneurs walked away to prove that without them the engines of production would stop. I wonder what she would say today if she were to see a nation in which the entrepreneurial class has become the bureaucrats — albeit indirectly through influence and election. What would Rand think if she were to see a nation in which one entrepreneurial class had the ability to pass, or greatly influence, whatever legislation facilitated their corporate goals simply by throwing more lobbyists and money at the issue, with no social considerations applied to their desires?

Where in our current culture are the social goals that ensure that pursuing greed does not mean making victims out of Americans?

Who is protecting us? Who insures that there is balance?

Are chemical flame retardants widely used in the industry, if so which parts of the mattresses are they used on, and which flame retardants are used?

"I've been looking into the chemicals in mattresses in the hope of avoiding synthetic chemicals, especially flame retardants. Interestingly, I've had trouble tracking down any studies, MSDS's, or other documentation of the presence of chemical flame retardants in conventional mattresses. I'd love to know whether chemical flame retardants are widely used in the industry, if so which parts of the mattresses are they used on, and which flame retardants are used. Do you have any information you can share about this?" — Charlie, Oakland, CA

Unfortunately the industry is replete with flammability chemicals and flame barriers (composed of synthetics) are replete in the industry, and no disclosures are required by any state or federal entities. Our products use only wool and our quilting construction to achieve flammability requirements.

An MSDS is not required by law on finished consumer products such as mattresses.

Our products carry a simple guarantee, if you can find a purer mattress, we'll give you ours for free.

Thank you for your question and may you always sleep safe.

What metal is used in the Fusion and why does OMI have a bed that uses both springs and latex?

"I see that OMI makes a Fusion bed that includes springs. What metal is used and why do you have a bed that uses both springs and latex? I would like to try this bed (I think I would like the combo) but cannot find a bay area store that carries this model." — Shirley, San Carlos, CA

The Fusion has a Bonnell style coil system inside which is made of virgin steel from the United States. We chose to incorporate the Natural Rubber to give the mattress a slightly plush feel to the top.

Our Classic Innerspring Mattress does not have any Natural Rubber and in turn you can feel the coil system push and give more of a firmer feel, whereas the Fusion has the same supportive innerspring inside but a slightly more plush top.

Is it possible to have a "safe" memory foam mattress?

"My husband has had cancer and hereditary nerve disease which is very painful. We decided to look at memory foam mattresses. Natural latex is great, but not as comfortable for him as memory foam. We found a company ... that produces what they call a biogreen memory foam that doesn't outgas VOCs. As a consumer, I have not been able to find out anything specific about the company. Is it possible to have a "safe" memory foam. We are also looking at adjustable beds...the base is made of wood and metal which we were told could be put in an ozone chamber to get rid of any off gassing. Do you have any information that you can share about this? We did look at the OMI mattresses here in Phoenix at Eco-Clean and liked them, however, they were not as comforting as the memory foam. (We also looked at Tempurpedic, but are well aware of the off gassing of their mattresses.) Any help you can give would be appreciated." — Mary Ann, AZ

While it would be nice if it were true, there is actually no such thing as memory foam that does not offgas. I checked out the website of the company you mentioned, and they don't say what kind of testing they did to show that they have no offgassing. The only legitimate test result for outgassing is a chamber test that indicates what is coming out of the mattress in an air-test environment, such as GREENGUARD. The test must be invalid to show no offgassing (because anything created, like "natural" memory foam, would show some offgassing). My gut tells me that the company in question is just one of a host of frauds making a sham of our industry.

Though your husband prefers the feel of memory foam, 100%-natural rubber provides excellent pressure-point relief, and is the closest thing to memory foam in terms of feel without the chemical offgassing. Did you try one of our sculpted surface mattresses? They are great for support, and don't feel as firm as our flat-surface mattresses, without losing any of the support.

I don't know about the manufacturing processes of the adjustable bed you are looking at, but I would suggest looking into the manufacturer, and just like mattresses, see if they have any third-party certifications for their offgassing. (GREENGUARD.org is a great place to start.)

Essentia claims to be made from organic latex, so is it "safe"? Is there something about the process involved that upsets even organic latex?

"More on the question of "safe" memory foam: Essentia claims to be made from organic latex, so is it "safe"? Is there something about the process involved that upsets even organic latex? (Loved your Sleep Safe, but I think you went to press before Essentia was widely known)" — Mary, Victoria, B.C., Canada

Essentia is one of those products that has very little credibility in my opinion.

I have tested N.M.F products and found over 60 chemicals outgassing, and yet they continue to claim that they have zero VOCs (even after I sent them the results).

They literally absconded with OMI's (the company I founded) registered trademark, OrganicPedic, and we had to threaten them with a lawsuit before they stopped using it in their advertising on Google.

They would be the last company in this industry that I would ever trust. Compaints have been filed against them with the Canadian Bureau of Competition, the US Federal Trade Commission, the Bureau of Consumer Affairs in California, and various other entities.

Sorry to be so frank, but they are a company that seems to make any claims they wish, and I would stay as far away as possible from their products if you are striving for a minimum-exposure product.

What is the best organic mattress for children out of a crib bed?

"What is the best organic mattress for children out of a crib bed?" — Kahli, Santa Monica, CA

A 100%-natural rubber mattress is generally recommended for a child's first "big boy" or "big girl" bed. Natural rubber provides excellent support, is dust-mite resistant, can be used without a box spring on a slat bed, and is virtually indestructible, which makes it extremely popular with parents. Your OMI retailer can recommend a specific model to suit your needs in your price range.

To find the retailer nearest you, you can go to http://www.omimattress.com/Locator.php and enter your zip code (HD Buttercup has an especially wide selection).

I was wondering if you had any plans to come out with an all cotton/wool mattress without springs or latex?

"Hi! I love your company and what it stands for. Unfortunately, latex is not an option for me and innerspring may not be the best choice for me either. I was wondering if you had any plans to come out with an all cotton/wool mattress without springs or latex? If not, is there any reason you haven't? I apologize if the answer is in your book; I haven't finished reading it yet." — Chris, West Haven, CT

We can indeed make you a latex-free version of our Maton. It would be made with just organic cotton and wool, without the 2" layer of natural rubber we usually use in the center. Ask your product specialist for details.

I'm glad you've been enjoying my book, Sleep Safe in a Toxic World, and hope you gain many ideas from it about how to make your home an organic haven.

We are researching mattresses and discovered the danger of the chemicals. What do you think of...

"We are researching mattresses and discovered the danger of the chemicals. What do you think of a Dunlop Rubber Latex mattress by Snug sleep in North vancouver BC Canada? Would that be the best and healthiest?" — Leondra, Vancouver BC

The short answer is OMI or Organic Mattresses, Inc.

Their mattresses are actually third party certified organic, snug safe is not, as well as their exclusive organic factory being independently audited and certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).

OMI is the only manufacturer to sanitize certified organic raw materials, and literally helped write the new Global Organic Standard.

We are the leader in this field versus a local company that manufacturers what we in the industry call a "MADE WITH". These are companies that buy certified organic materials, but there is no verification that they were even used in your mattress (manufacturers in this industry type their own contents labels so with an audit one never knows what they have used to build their product.

I call these mattresses knock offs, and for the last 5 years there are virtually 100's on the web that Claim to be an "organic Product". They are not, unless they can show you a certificate from an accredited USDA organization that says they are.

OMI has a simple, no qualification statement; "If you can find a purer mattress, we'll give you ours for FREE".

The omimattress.com should answer any further questions and will provide you the closest retailer.

I am thinking about buying a bed with 80% talalay latex and 20% syntetic latex...

"In Sweden there are no organic choise of beds so I am thinking about buying a bed with 80% talalay latex and 20% syntetic latex.

- If you compare this talalay latex (80% 20% syntetic) with a matress containing syntetic foam, which would you suggest I go for?
- Is syntetic latex always bad, even if only 20%?
- Can some syntetic latex be ok? Such as nitirillatex for example?
- Is natural latex (as the 80% in talalay) always good, or does it depend on how it is processed?" — Stockholm, Sweden

As my book states, the only defense consumers have to reduce chemical exposures in their life is to eliminate all exposures you can from unnecessary products and substitute the lowest chemical signature product for any product you cannot do with (such as mattresses).

Thus, 80/20 is the best choice, but it is only one component. Do they use fire retardants, or other chemicals in the fabrics, glues, cleaning solvents etc.

Most likely, you will never know because they do not, unlike ourselves, send out their mattresses for true emission testing. They use test that test for a prescribed list, but not emissions.

It leaves you with but one choice. Pick the best bed available with the most information about outgassing and organic material certifications.

I ordered horizontal faux wood blinds from levolor. Instead do real wood blinds. Do you think it was a mistake?

" I am chemically sensitive. I usually like to go with pure wood but since this is florida and the sub shines hot and bright, I ordered horizontal faux Wood blinds from levolor. Instead do real wood blinds. Do you think it was A mistake?"

— Marilyn, Fort Lauderdale, FL

I suggest you request an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) from the company who manufactured your products in order for you to evaluate any risks from the finishes they used on their product.

I am confused concerning your OMI mattresses and the LIFEKIND mattresses...

"I am having great difficulty replacing my mattress and am hoping you can provide some much needed clarification. As a highly chemical sensitive person who also suffers from back issues, I am trying to make the best decision with these issues in mind when purchasing my bed, but am confused concerning your OMI mattresses and the LIFEKIND mattresses. I would love it if you could explain the differences and if they are both produced to the same level of chemical free standards. It is a lot of money but if it lasts and I am not getting sick I'll do it.?"

— J.B., Peachtree City, GA

Every Lifekind mattress states on the product that it is made by OMI (Organic Mattresses, Inc.). Both are made to the same certified standards with the same raw materials. However, different constructions and fabrics are used on the two lines as one is a catalog intended for customers throughout North America who may not have access to a convenient OMI retail store where they can try our products. Because Lifekind products cannot be tried, they offer a 90-Day Comfort Exchange whereas most retailers don't have to since the consumer can try the product in the store. While the initial purchase of any high-end specialty mattress absolutely is a significant purchase, they will outlast a typical commercial mattress by many years. I hope this answers your question, and thank you for considering our products.

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