When deciding about buying a bed for yourself or your child, lots of options come up. Did you know that we spend about 1/3 of our lives in bed? I unfortunately did not know anything about mattress options when I bought beds for my family.
Debra Lynn Dadd says in her book that most common mattresses are made from "polyurethane foam plastic, sprayed with fire retardants ( PBDEs ) and covered in polyester plastic fabric." She goes on to say that exposure to polyurethane foam "can cause bronchitis, coughing, skin and eye problems." Apparently, the mattresses can out-gas formaldehyde (a carcinogen) as they age. Aside from potential health issues, it would seem that the mattresses are made from petroleum-based products, which can't be so great for the environment.
Options for a "green" mattress are organic cotton mattresses, organic cotton and wool mattresses, natural latex mattresses, and organic pillowtop mattresses. Latex mattresses are popular for comfort, and usually have a variety of layers of cotton and wool, which is naturally fire retardant. Mattresses that do not use fire-retardant chemicals or the requisite composition and thickness of wool cannot be purchased without a doctor's prescription attesting that you have sensitivities to chemicals. Interestingly, I read that sleeping on the wool topper helps regulate temperature and also reduces blood pressure!
I started researching various natural bedding shops online and was overwhelmed with options and info. If you decide to go with latex, you need to do your research and be sure the latex you are shopping for is 100% pure and natural with no no fillers or extenders. Latex is made from the sap of natural rubber from trees commonly found in South Asia.
The Green Guide suggests looking "for mattresses wrapped in wool, which is naturally fire-retardant, whose labels say they meet the CPSC's and California's flammability-resistance standards. To support the environment as well as your health, go with organic cotton that has been cultivated without polluting pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Check labels to make sure that bedding is also produced without bleaching or stain- or water-resistant "finishing" (a process that uses offgassing chemicals such as formaldehyde)."
Of course, natural mattresses come at a premium. Twin sizes are about $800-900 and crib sizes are around $300-$400. Many companies have sales or promotions. For the very budget conscious, you can get an Ikea foam mattress which is PBDE-free.
If I were to spend oodles on a nice, natural bed I'd be a little worried about pee accidents. Fortunately you can get natural mattress covers and " puddle pads."
As I am the first to point out, I'm not an expert, but it seems to me that the memory foam mattresses are not as safe or as natural.
Here are some online resources for shopping and learning. Check to see if local shops in your area sell similar products and maybe you can actually try before you buy!