If you want to know more about whether a product is safe, be skeptical researching on the internet. Most so-called information pages will be manufacturers promoting their own products and often claim their competition uses unsafe materials. This makes life confusing for the public trying to find out the truth. If you look hard enough and long enough, you will always find something to be concerned about.
I have worked 35 years in the mattress industry and have seen many different materials used in mattresses so I hope my impartial advice will help you understand a little more about whether you should buy Polyester, Latex or a combination of both.
Latex is a natural rubber (classed as foam) from the Rubber Tree (Hevea Brasiliensis). All Latex sap, organic or non-organic, must be mixed with various chemicals to vulcanize the mixture into a solid foam. Chemicals used can be ammonia, tetramethyl, thiuram, disulfide and zinc. Fillers, or Synthetic Latex, can also be used mixed with Natural Latex to stabilize the mixture. This is because Natural Latex is quite soft, so mixtures are often needed to produce a firmer mattress filling.
What are the pros and cons of Latex mattresses?
Organic latex is highly flammable and burns on contact. (See video here). Consequently, in the UK, in order to pass the Fire Regulations, it either has to be treated with chemical flame retardants or powdered carbon (graphite) which turns the Latex a light grey colour. In addition, Latex cannot simply be wrapped in wool to make it fire retardant (unlike the US). This would be illegal in the UK as Latex is classified as a foam under the Furniture Fire Regulations and must pass specific Foam Furniture Fire Regulations.
Latex sheets are slightly breathable so has an advantage over manmade Foam. However, it is not as breathable as a fiber, man-made or natural. Latex and Foam are both good insulators in mattresses so generally make for a warmer sleep. Some manufactures will use a lot of fiber around the Latex sheet to increase air flow or even cut vent holes in the Latex itself.
In terms of adverse health effects, Latex allergy is also quite common and can increase with greater surface contact.
End Of Life issues with Latex Mattresses
Whilst many Latex products are biodegradable, Latex mattresses are difficult to recycle here in the UK and are usually sent to ‘Waste To Energy’ incineration or landfill.
According to the National Bed Federation, End of Life Report 2019 (page 19):
‘Latex foam is sometimes accepted as a contaminant in the polyurethane foam fraction, as it only makes up around 5-10% of the foam in mattresses. Otherwise, it has no second-life applications other than energy’. https://www.bedfed.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/NBF-National-Mattress-End-of-Life-Report-2019.pdf
Polyester comes under a lot of criticism from Latex mattress manufacturers. One questions if this is an honest assessment or simply for commercial reasons.
Polyester is of the simplest of all polymers and was invented in 1942. For 80 years, polyester has been worn next to the skin either combined with cotton, for use in clothing or on its own for outdoor fleeces. There have been no reported health or allergy issues associated with Polyester.
In the bed industry, Polyester is either used as a pure fiber or a as a recycled fiber.
Polyester in fashion clothing can be criticized for fiber-loss during washing and this, importantly, gets much negative press as particles can pass into water courses. However, as Polyester based mattresses are never washed, there are no negative impacts on the environment.
Why use Polyester in a mattress?
Polyester has the lowest carbon footprint and off-gassing of any material. This means Polyester based mattresses are perfect for customers who have allergies or chemical sensitivities.
Polyester is naturally fire retardant, as it tends to pull away from flame when burnt. As a pure untreated knitted fiber, it will pass the UK Fire Regulations for mattresses without the use of chemical fire retardants. Polyester is also high breathable and vents moisture easily. This makes Polyester ideal for mattresses to maintain temperature regulation.
End of Life issues with Polyester.
Polyester is not biodegradable but Polyester is easily recyclable and can be recycled many times. It is an outstanding material for the Circular Economy and Stockholm Convention Compliant (see more here).
To keep your families’ health and the environment safe, ensure there are no chemical flame retardants used but you must also be assured of conformity to fire safety regulations. If you have concerns, speak to Trading Standards for advice.
Here at Cottonsafe®, our main focus is to protect you from flame retardant chemicals used in huge quantities across the mattress industry. There is up to 6 kilos of these pesticide-based chemicals in a double Latex or Foam mattress. You will find these chemicals are in both mattress fillings and the mattress covers.
Cottonsafe® has proved that, with our leading material technologies, we do not need chemicals to pass the UK Furniture Fire Regulations.