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Natural Latex Foam Mattresses: A Healthy Alternative to Memory Foam

By Mark Sweiger

Did you know that natural latex foam mattresses, made from the latex sap of the rubber tree, are a much safer alternative to the popular memory foam mattresses? Memory foam mattresses, like most commercially available mattresses, are made from petroleum based polyurethane foam, an extremely flammable material. Known as "solid gasoline" by firefighters, the polyurethane foam in most commercially available mattresses burns so furiously that strict new fire resistance standards have been written into law, starting with California in 2005 and going nationwide in 2006. These strict new fire resistance standards are being met by tripling the amount of fire retardant chemicals, called PDBEs, that are added to manufacture memory foam mattresses and mattress toppers.

Most mattress purchasers are unaware of the fire danger posed by polyurethane mattresses. But the greater danger may be the higher concentrations of PDBEs used to help prevent combustion in memory foam mattresses. PDBEs build up in the body in ways similar to banned PCBs, and they have been linked to cancer and other illnesses. PDBEs have already been banned in Europe, but not in North America. Some medical researchers believe that the extra load of PDBEs in newly made mattresses will cause millions of cancer cases in the coming decades. Because you lie directly on your mattress for 8 hours every night, your body has its greatest contact with the dangerous PDBEs while you sleep, and they pass right through your skin.

The solution to the PDBE problem is to do what the Europeans already do, sleep on natural latex mattresses. Natural latex mattresses are made from the sap of the tropical rubber tree. Natural latex foam does not burn well, and most natural latex mattresses are also quilted with organic cotton and wool which makes them very fire resistant, complying with all current fire codes.

Latex foam comes a variety of densities for different firmness needs, and, unlike memory foam, it doesn't have to heat up to cradle the body--the effect is immediate. Most people find 100% natural latex foam mattresses to be incredibly comfortable, relieving pressure points and improving circulation. Another great characteristic of latex is its durability. Latex mattresses have been known to last up to 30 years. Because of their resilience, latex mattresses do not need to be turned like innerspring mattresses.

Because latex mattresses do not have innersprings, they require a firmer foundation than the traditional boxsprings. Latex mattresses can be used with a platform bed, a slat foundation which looks like traditional boxsprings, but has slats on the top, or a solid wood foundation, which also looks like boxsprings but has a plywood top usually covered by fabric.

Chemical-free natural latex mattresses are produced by a number of North American manufacturers, the largest of which are Vivetique - Crown City Mattress, located in South El Monte, California, and Obasan, located in Ottawa, Canada. There are also a number of European importers of natural latex foam mattresses, the biggest of which is Green Sleep from Belgium.

Retailers of natural latex mattresses include a variety of local mattress stores who carry products from these manufacturers. There are also nationwide web retailers, like Dax Stores, which usually have the best prices for these natural latex mattresses.

About the author:
Mark Sweiger ( is a freelance reporter on home and garden topics and ecological news. He recommends that you protect your health and safety by sleeping on chemical-free latex mattresses.

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