The Irony of Flame Retardants in Water: How These Chemicals Are Moving From Our Couches to Our Rivers

September 25th, 2014 by Sebastian

Naturepedic mattresses don’t contain chemical flame retardants, compounds with suspected connections to human health and developmental problems. Jillian Pritchard Cooke, an interior designer specializing in healthier designs and founder of Wellness Within Your Walls, has connected flame retardants to poor indoor air quality. But what about outdoor water quality?

Scientists have been finding chemical flame retardants, particularly PBDEs, in rivers and waterways throughout the world. The question has been why? A recently released peer-review study published Sept. 17, 2014 by the journal Environmental Science & Technology offers some answers.

Washington Toxics Coalition report – How Toxic Flame Retardants Pollute Our Waterways

The report was co-authored by Erika Schreder, science director with the Washington Toxics Coalition, and Mark J. La Guardia, senior environmental research scientist at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. The study examined 20 homes in the Vancouver and Longview areas of Washington state, testing for 22 chemical flame retardants in common household dust. The study found 21 chemical flame retardants in the dust in varying amounts, with 72% of total flame retardant mass made up of chlorinated organophosphate flame retardants, also known as tris. Tris is commonly found in polyurethane foam (used in mattresses, sofas, and other furniture cushioning) and is suspected of being an endocrine disruptor.

Of those 21 flame retardants, the study found that 18 could be detected in laundry wastewater. In other words, the dust appeared to be adhering to clothing and other fabrics there were then washed, with the chemicals then heading to wastewater treatment plants.

By comparing flame retardant levels in wastewater treatment plant influents to estimates based on laundry wastewater levels, the study found that laundry wastewater is likely the primary source of flame retardant chemicals in waterways.

Dust particles are small, so what volume levels of flame retardants are involved? Mass loadings to the Columbia River from each individual treatment plant showed up to approximately 251 pounds per year for the flame retardant chemical TCPP alone. The study found that a single treatment plant along the Columbia River released a combination of three tris flame retardants at an estimated 384 pounds a year, which the Washington Toxics Coalition estimates to be the equivalent of the flame retardant used to treat 1,088 couches.

With more than 300 wastewater treatment plants in Washington, that adds up (multiple 300 by 384 and you get 115,200 pounds per year as a rough estimate). Research suggests a connection with chlorinated organophosphates and endocrine disruption in fish, but the available research is extremely limited.

The bottom line is that chemical flame retardants commonly found in mattresses and other home furnishings as well as consumer electronics potentially impact more than just people. Studies of the potentially harmful health and developmental effects of these substances must also examine what they mean for the fish and wildlife in and along our rivers and lakes.

New Government Report on Phthalates Sends Mixed Messages

September 23rd, 2014 by Sebastian

Phthalates are chemical plasticizers used to make plastics like vinyl pliable or soft, and they are in almost everyone’s blood.  These chemicals are used in all types of products including children’s items like plastic teething rings, vinyl mattress covers and even baby lotions. This is a serious problem considering phthalates and phthalate substitutes are suspected of being connected to hormonal disruptions, asthma and even obesity. 

In mid-July, a panel overseen by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a final report on phthalates and phthalate substitutes. The CPSC is a relatively small federal agency tasked with overseeing that products are safe. (For example, they issued the regulations for crib design, including the banning of drop sides.)

The “Report on Phthalates and Phthalate Alternatives” does not call for a ban on all phthalates in children’s products.  Instead, it recommends which phthalates should be allowable and which are not.

Phthalates Are Born Drifters

One aspect of concern regarding phthalates is that they don’t stay put. Because phthalates don’t chemically bind to plastics, they leach out over time. Have you ever felt a once soft vinyl cover that has become cracked and crunchy? That’s because the phthalates have left the plastic and entered the environment.

Phthalates are scary drifters. (Photo from iStock from a painting by artist Yaroslav Gerzhedovich)

Phthalates are scary drifters.
(Photo from iStock from a painting by artist Yaroslav Gerzhedovich)

Phthalates and phthalate substitutes can get into children in multiple ways. They can be transferred from the mother to unborn babies. Babies can also take in phthalates through skin absorption, primarily from products like lotions.  Children can also inhale phthalates.  Since so many of the plastics used for baby products contain phthalates, most children are being exposed to phthalates on a daily basis.

What the New Report Recommends ( … or Get Ready for LOTS of Abbreviations!)

The new report recommends continuing a previous ban in toys and child care articles on three select phthalates you may have heard about: DEHP, DBP and BBP.  The report, however, recommends allowing two phthalates that were previously banned on an interim basis: DNOP and DIDP.

PHTA The report recommends against a third phthalate called DINP which was also previously banned on an interim basis. DINP, by the way, was added in 2013 to California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer (even though the chemical industry claimed there was inadequate proof.)

The report also suggests banning four new phthalates in children’s products. The report itself is almost a whopping 600 pages and examines many, many different chemicals.

What Does It All Mean?

It’s important to remember that this is only a set of recommendations and not law. The CPSC will decide whether to accept or reject all or some of the recommendations. A decision could be reached by January 2015.

Naturepedic simply does not use phthalates or phthalate substitutes in mattresses.  While GREENGUARD tests only for a select list of phthalates, our philosophy is to avoid those chemicals altogether, meaning we hold ourselves to an even higher standard than GREENGUARD does. No vinyl, no phthalates.  This simplifies things, and we don’t need a 600 page document to explain it.

Got some time on your hands? You can read the full report here.

 

Naturepedic Founder and Other Organic Visionaries to be Honored

September 17th, 2014 by Sebastian

The organics movement is growing and the Organic Trade Association (OTA) supports organic businesses and the leaders that make them thrive. The OTA is holding its 2014 Organic content_img.23.imgLeadership Awards on September 17 to recognize three individuals making significant impacts on the organic industry.  We are proud to announce Naturepedic founder Barry Cik has been selected as one of those visionaries in the organic movement.

American_Visionary_Arts_Museum,_Baltimore_(ca._2005)

Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum
Photo CC license Wikipedia

The awards will take place at The American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, a colorful venue perfect for recognizing the vibrancy of the organic movement. Naturepedic’s Barry Cik will be awarded the Rising Star Award for his work in growing a small Ohio-based company into a national organic presence.

The OTA will also award the Growing the Organic Industry Award to Marty Mesh, Executive Director of Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers Inc. (FOG). Marty is a hands-on veteran in organic agriculture with more than 40 years of experience. Not only instrumental in forming FOG, Marty has been involved in many areas of organic business including policy, advocacy, training, certification, and more.

The Organic Farmer of the Year Award will go to Doug Crabtree, a farmer and organic farm trainer. Doug owns organic farm Vilicus Farms in Montana (although he grew up on a farm in Ohio, the state where Naturepedic is based). Along with his wife Anna, Doug runs an apprenticeship program. By sharing his extensive knowledge of organic farming methods, Doug is inspiring more farmers to grow organically and is helping them develop the skills needed for success.

Join us in giving a big organic cheer for this year’s Organic Leadership winners! Together, they are promoting individual personal health and the overall health of our planet. As a bit of appropriate trivia: Villicus in Latin means “steward.” Thanks Doug, Marty and Barry for all being good stewards of the earth.

 

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Naturepedic’s Barry Cik

Resources for Businesses for a Healthier Economy

August 12th, 2014 by Sebastian

Sustainable business practices influence all levels of life: workers, consumers and businesses across the country who stand to lose greatly if we don’t protect our environment. The American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) can help you keep up to date on initiatives and efforts working toward a healthier, more sustainable economy.

ASBC LogoTo this end, ASBC recently rolled out a cleaner website design to enhance the public’s understanding of these important issues.

Geared to businesses who want to create a more sustainable economy, the ASBC website has material that anyone interested in these issues will find useful.  Highlighting topics like safer chemicals, agriculture, energy, workers’ rights, pollution, climate change and more, the website allows visitors to catch up on current research and new trends in sustainable business. Readers can also learn about pending legislation, both at the state and federal levels, and read polling reports commissioned by ASBC on some of the biggest issues of the day, like climate, extreme weather, and minimum wage.

Most importantly, the ASBC website showcases actions people can take in working for sustainability. For example, the site includes pre-written templates to help easily reach out to legislators. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle like to talk about how much they love small businesses – that’s precisely why this kind of tool is important.

ASBC shows that sustainability and business do go hand in hand, and that meaningful change requires the collective efforts of individuals, businesses, researchers and governments. After all,  people, cities, factories and stores are all located on one single planet. If we don’t take action to protect the planet, it’s not just polar bears that will suffer – our economy will too.

Naturepedic, along with sustainability-minded businesses including Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation, Patagonia, Stonyfield Farm and more, is a proud member of ASBC and the Companies for Safer Chemicals coalition.

 

Naturepedic Puts Veggies to Work

July 28th, 2014 by Sebastian

Vegetables are awesome to eat, but they also serve as a sustainable raw material in making bio-based fabrics.  Well played, veggies!

In time for Las Vegas Market*, Naturepedic is announcing the use of this plant-based fabric to wrap the coils in its EOS organic mattress.  Similar bio-based fabric is already used in European mattresses, but Naturepedic is the first to use it in the U.S.

Of course we take things a few steps further (because that’s how we are!) First, our fabric is being sourced from non-GMO plants. Next, we’ve come up with a special process to securely seal the coils with the bio-based fabric without the need for adhesives. The individual wrapped coils are then collectively encased in an organic cotton fabric zippered case for greater ease of installation and added durability.

EOS will of course continue to include plenty of organic cotton, wool, and, depending on the configuration, GOLS-certified organic latex. Bio-based fabric is just another sustainable addition.

Yet another way veggies are working for you!

 

*Las Vegas Market is a HUGE trade show held twice a year in, of course, Las Vegas.  Home furnishings, décor and gift manufacturers set up to attract the eyes of buyers for retail stores from all over the U.S. and beyond. This industry show brings in some 50,000 buyers looking to snag the latest, coolest and best new items to sell in their stores. Naturepedic’s display can be found in the Specialty Sleep Association Showroom (C1565).  Summer Market 2014 runs July 27 through 31. [include Market photo].

 

Naturepedic New Stuff

July 28th, 2014 by Sebastian

In earlier posts I mentioned Naturepedic’s upcoming display at the massive trade show Las Vegas Market in July. It’s not a show without NEW offerings, so here’s the newest of the new from Naturepedic:

Trio

We officially launched our Trio washable, customizable organic pillow system. Yes, it really is a customizable pillow, and by customization I don’t mean you can change the pillowcase to a different color.

Three layers of the Trio Pillow. Don't just fluff it ... adjust it!

Three layers of the Trio Pillow. Don’t just fluff it … adjust it!

The concept behind the Trio is to offer a soft, luxurious fluffy feel but keep support integrity for postural alignment. We accomplish this with a layered approach. At the core of the Trio is a zippered inner compartment made of organic cotton filled with organic latex. The zipper allows a user to adjust the latex fill to achieve the perfect loft for their individual preference.

Covering the inner “pillow” is a super comfy quilted encasement. This gives the cloudlike feel of the Trio. The third level is an organic cotton pillowcase with foldover flaps, keeping the other two layers secure. Of course the pillowcase is washable, but what’s great is the quilted encasement is also machine washable, allowing you to keep your luxurious pillow clean and sanitary.

Adult Organic Waterproof Protector Pads

Waterproof protector pads for mattresses are known for being crinkly and crunchy, taking away from the comfort feel of the mattress underneath. Not ours. Our adult-sized certified organic cotton waterproof mattress protector pad is stretchable and soft. Our protector pad doesn’t make you feel like you’re sleeping on a shower curtain, but instead lets the mattress feel underneath come through, like it should. Our organic protector pad is waterproof without the vinyl/PVC, phthalates, or latex rubber and without the PFCs found in many waterproofed products.

FlexSlat™

Our new FlexSlat™ Adjustable European Style Slat Foundation adds some control to your foundation. If you haven’t seen a slat foundation before, it’s an entirely different approach, and a good one at that.

Bowed flexible wooden slats allow users to adjust the tension for customized support, and the open design offers greater air circulation. To adjust the foundation, users move sliders to bring fine-tuning to a new level. Slat foundations are popular in Europe.

For those attending, Naturepedic can be found at Booth C-1565 at the July Las Vegas Market.

Naturepedic Goes Beyond Certified

July 23rd, 2014 by Sebastian

The time is here for Naturepedic to show off in a big way … to the retail industry, that is.

Naturepedic is prepping for Las Vegas Market in July, an industry show where companies showcase their latest and greatest offerings in furniture, home décor and gifts. The biannual Las Vegas Market is a whopper of a show: picture some 50,000 or more buyers for the stores you know and many you don’t arriving from all over the country, even world, to decide the products their stores will carry. It’s big.

For the July show, Naturepedic debuts its Beyond Certified campaign to educate retailers about the clever innovations and product variety offered in our adult organic mattresses, which, on top of everything are independently certified organic to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Not only do our mattresses earn GOTS certification, but so does our entire manufacturing facility. That gives us bragging rights.

The Beyond Certified campaign works toward two goals.  One is to reinforce the importance of GOTS certification, which separates organic products like ours from those making hollow “green” claims.  Another goal is to flaunt how Naturepedic is bringing a fresh approach back to organic mattresses, which for years was stuck in a latex-only funk.

Las Vegas Market lets us show what's in our mattresses. (display from previous Market)

Las Vegas Market lets us show what’s in our mattresses. (display from previous Market)

We do make amazing GOTS-certified all organic latex mattresses, but we do a lot more. Regarding latex, we are the only organic mattress manufacturer exclusively using latex certified to the Global Organic Latex Standard, or GOLS.

Latex is great, but many people enjoy the cooler sleep offered from the increased airflow afforded by coils or simply don’t want an all-foam mattress, organic or not. We provide a variety of GOTS-certified designs to make them very happy. Not only do we offer organic latex foam top comfort layers atop organic cotton fabric encased coils for a best of both worlds design, we also provide latex-free models with comfy encased comfort coils for luxurious latex-free comfort. Did you know Naturepedic is the only maker of GOTS-certified cotton encased coil mattresses in the U.S.? We are!  (I told you – this is our time to show off!)

Fresh also means doing things differently, like offering an organic sleep system that lets you customize your layers.  Our EOS™ brings a European flair to organic mattresses with a modern look, and allows customers to create their own dream mattresses, even with different firmness levels on each side of the bed for sleep partners with clashing preferences.  That’s something you just don’t see in typical organic mattresses!

EOS lets you customize your sleep experience

EOS lets you customize your sleep experience

And that’s the point of Beyond Certified.  At Naturepedic we are not typical.  We are constantly innovating, developing and offering creative new approaches to organic mattresses and accessories made with healthier materials, but always with a dedication to old-fashioned quality.

I guess we’re just an old-fashioned, non-traditional trendsetting innovator of healthier, safer, more comfortable mattresses!  It’s fun to brag sometimes.

Going to July Market? Visit us at Booth C-1565.

First Candle Works to Help Babies Reach Their First Birthday

July 21st, 2014 by Sebastian

First Candle Safe Sleep Media Star logoIn a perfect world, every baby arrives at his or her first birthday, giggling and happy. First Candle is working toward that world.

The organization is dedicated to researching and preventing sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUIDs), striving to put an end to the devastation of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and stillbirths. Both a research and advocacy group, First Candle also provides resources to help families touched by these tragedies. The name First Candle refers to that very first candle on a cake celebrating a one-year birthday. According to the organization, every year in the U.S. there are 26,000 stillbirths and 4,000 infants under one year who die unexpectedly.

In addition to spearheading research, First Candle also educates through their website and outreach programs. Their website alone is full of tips to help keep baby safe, including swaddling suggestions, basics for creating safer sleep environments, healthy practices for expecting moms, and more. Expecting parents can even download and print their own Kick Count Chart.

One of First Candle’s latest initiatives is the Safe Sleep Media Stars Campaign. According to First Candle, a study of magazines targeted to women of child-bearing age revealed that more than one-third of marketing images showed babies sleeping face down or in other unsafe sleep positions and more than two-thirds depicted babies in unsafe sleep environments. Through the Media Stars Campaign, First Candle promotes responsible media imagery of sleeping babies in print and online.

First Candle offers plenty of tips for moms and moms-to-be, but their website is also valuable to dads, grandparents, caregivers, and anyone and everyone who interacts with babies (or shows images of sleeping babies). By increasing awareness, First Candle works with everyone to collectively help each baby reach that first adorable birthday.

As a First Candle Media Star, Naturepedic has pledged to only show sleeping babies resting in safe positions or environments.

 

 

Demand for Safer Chemicals Gets Broader Acceptance

June 26th, 2014 by Sebastian

Debate continues to rage regarding reform of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Many industry watchers are guessing that any reform of the national law is becoming less and less likely to happen before the close of 2014.

Legislative reform or not, the topic of safer chemicals in consumer products is capturing public attention, and businesses are noticing. High profile initiatives by retailers Wal-Mart, Target and Whole Foods underscore the burgeoning realization that safer products makes good business sense.

Of course any reform or initiative is only as good as the details within the effort. Simply participating in a “safer chemical” program does not a safer product make. Nonetheless, these initiatives show that concerns have moved out of the insular world of environmentalism and into the broader consumer base. TSCA after all was passed back in 1976, and only ten years ago its existence was largely known only by environmentalists and legislators. Now in 2014 the law now is being discussed by parent, consumer and health organizations and the individuals that make up those groups. Awareness has grown.

In earlier posts we’ve mentioned the American Sustainable Business Council and its Companies for Safer Chemicals Coalition. Here are some of the many other efforts looking to curb toxic chemicals in products.

0 ZCHC logoRoadmap to Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) This voluntary initiative for apparel manufacturers and retailers began in 2011, with the goal of moving the industry towards zero discharge of hazardous chemicals by 2020.

 

Healthier Hosptials Initiative logo Twelve large health systems joined with Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), the Center for Health Design, and Practice Greenhealth to create the Healthier Hospitals Initiative (HHI). HHI is designed as a guide for hospitals to reduce energy and waste, choose safer and less toxic products, and purchase and serve healthier foods.

 

BizNGO logoA collaborative of businesses and environmental groups working toward safer chemicals. BizNGO.org has pioneered the GreenScreen method for companies to better assess chemical choices.

 

Safer States logoSafer States, part of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, provides discusses efforts  by state, both public and private, working to reduce questionable chemicals. This site offers a variety of information and provides a bill tracker to show the progress of proposed legislation for safer chemicals by state. Additionally, the site provides a good snapshot of efforts occurring nationally.

The above initiatives indicate that the topic of safer chemicals is likely not going away. Further, the ease of sharing information provided by the Internet is bringing the topic mainstream and into the business world, where it needs to be.

After all, safer products benefit everyone, not just environmentalists.

Naturepedic Handmade Mattresses: Real People, Real Quality

June 25th, 2014 by Sebastian

 

Our mattresses are handmade. Really.

A toy zipping down a conveyor belt, made from wooden pieces cut by a pre-programmed robotic machine then painted by an automated sprayer but in the end assembled with four bolts by hand is not “handmade” in my mind. To me, handmade is something lovingly made by a real person or persons.

Naturepedic mattresses are handmade in the classic sense.686A9499

Our manufacturing plant in Ohio (fully certified to the stringent Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), by the way) doesn’t use an assembly line, for starters.  Instead, you’ll see stations where skilled craftspeople are sewing, cutting, and otherwise building mattresses, each person paying close attention to the job at hand. The process reminds me of watching an heirloom guitar being hand built.

One of the greatest features of this approach is every individual employee in our factory is empowered to stop the process if something isn’t right, and by right, I mean perfect. One of our greatest sources of pride is the pride our employees put into their craft. Of course we use machines and tools, particularly for stitching, but behind every machine or tool is a detail-oriented person obsessively checking for quality.

Coils, made in house, are individually wrapped in organic cotton sleeves and hand attached

My favorite part, and one of the most remarkable processes to watch, is the creation of metal coils, each individually wrapped in organic cotton fabric. Amazing. To do this, we use reconditioned vintage machines from Europe that are in themselves things of beauty. The machinery creates the coiled springs from straight wire, compresses the coil and allows them to be sewn into the cotton pockets. The precision machinery, while old, is exceptionally complicated, with a remarkable number of moving parts. After each coil is wrapped, a craftsman hand attaches the individual coils.

The bottom line is we simply don’t take short cuts. We craft mattresses with real people, skillfully working together to make awesome products. That’s what I call handmade.

To watch some of the handmade process and to catch a glimpse of the machinery I mentioned above that coils the wires, check out our award-winning video.