When “No Flame Retardants” Doesn't Mean “No Flame Retardants”

Posted in: Greenwashing
By Sebastian
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When “No Flame Retardants” Doesn't Mean “No Flame Retardants”

Many commonly used flame retardant chemicals are being connected to health and developmental issues. Want a mattress without flame retardant chemicals? Get a certified organic mattress. Otherwise, flame retardants will probably be in that mattress, even if green-washing marketing suggests otherwise, and you’re going to need to guess what they are.

It's not easy to find out what flame retardants are in your mattress

Let me explain with a little compare and contrast.

We say “Naturepedic mattresses meet all government flammability standards without flame barriers and other flame retardant chemicals.”

So why don’t we shorten that to “No flame retardants added” and call it a day? That would mean the same thing, right?


Sure, when WE talk about not using flame retardants, we actually mean what we say. We mean these chemicals are not in our mattress. Anywhere.

This straight-forward approach is not the case with most mattresses, however. The loophole occurs with synthetic fabrics.

Now if a mattress maker would take a finished mattress and spray it with flame retardants, the mattress would have a flame retardant “added”.

If the mattress, however, includes synthetic fabrics originally manufactured with flame retardant chemicals, this is different. Why? Because the flame retardant chemicals are considered an integral or constituent part of the fabric. These fabrics can be on the outside of the mattress or in flame barriers on the inside. Regardless, the mattress maker can state, “No flame retardant chemicals added.”

But, you say, those chemicals are IN the mattress!

Yes, but the chemicals were integral to the flame barriers or fabric from the beginning. The green-washing trick lies in the word added. The chemicals weren't added to the mattress!

Even worse? These chemicals inserted into the fabric will likely not be disclosed to the consumer, so if you want to know the flame retardant used, you’ll probably need to guess.

Flame retardants

Understand, this deceptive practice is not illegal. I would argue immoral, but not illegal.

Who needs it?

But, you ask, why do manufacturers add (regardless of how it’s “added”) flame retardants into mattresses to begin with?  Who needs it?  Well, here is the bottom line – if you didn’t fill the mattress with highly flammable materials, then, in fact, you don’t need flame retardant chemicals!

But most mattresses are filled – to one degree or another – with polyurethane foam, which is a highly flammable material.  Some manufacturers add some soybean oil or castor oil and call the fill “soybean foam” or “eco-foam” or similar, but it’s still basically polyurethane foam.  And, when ignited, it can reach temperatures of 1400 degrees within minutes.

The only practical way to avoid flame retardant chemicals is to use certified organic products to ensure these chemicals have not been worked into fabrics and barriers. Organic certification requires a level of disclosure that just doesn't currently exist for fabrics.

Otherwise, you’re left guessing what flame retardants are in your mattress, and your health shouldn't be left to guesswork.

6 years ago

When “No Flame Retardants” Doesn't Mean “No Flame Retardants”

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