Fire Retardants in Mattresses Are They Safe

Fire Retardants in Mattresses: Are They Safe?

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In recent years, the use of flame retardants has been a hot topic for debate. Many people believe that because these toxic chemicals are added to mattresses and other furniture items, they should be safe. However, there is strong evidence to suggest otherwise.

In fact, many studies have shown that these chemicals can disrupt hormones in animals and humans alike as well as cause cancerous tumors in the liver and other organs. These findings show just how dangerous this chemical additive really is.

In this article, we’ll discuss the dangers of conventional flame retardant chemicals, and we’ll tell you what types of fire retardants in mattresses are safe.


flame retardants in mattresses


Why Are Flame Retardants Used in Mattresses?


They are used to meet specific flammability test standards, prevent fires, and reduce the toxic effects of smoke if a fire does start. If you sleep on a mattress with fire retardants and flames reaching your room, you are much safer than if you didn’t have any chemicals present.

Certain types of fire retardants in mattresses are considered to be safer than others, however, it’s important to choose wisely because not all chemical flame retardants are the same. We’ll discuss this further in the next section.


How Do Mattress Flame Retardants Work?


In mattresses, flame retardants reduce the amount of oxygen available to fuel a fire, which reduces flammability and slows down the rate at which the mattress will burn. Flame retardants will not stop a fire from starting or burning.

The choice of flame retardant is based on the need to slow the release of heat, smoke, and flammable gases. These substances can be either mixed into or bonded to the materials that make up a mattress.


What Are the Dangers of Chemical Flame Retardants in Mattresses?


Chemical fire retardants found in mattresses can potentially lead to a variety of health problems, including cancer, infertility, and obesity. Children are especially at risk for exposure to chemicals since they are more susceptible to chemicals than adults. These chemicals make our mattresses fireproof but come with a risk that is not worth taking.


flame retardants in mattresses


What Are The Safest Mattress Flame Retardants?


One of the more common natural flame retardants used in non toxic mattresses is wool. Wool is known to do an amazing job of trapping flame, and it’s commonly used in the organic mattress industry. The reason wool works so well is it doesn’t burn, rather it smolders which means the flames are extinguished by the lack of oxygen. Organic mattresses, such as Botanical Bliss,  use wool batting to pass flammability tests and are safe for children and pets.

Another flame retardant used in organic mattresses is PLA batting. It’s made of plant fibers, and it behaves in a similar way to wool in flammability tests. Mattresses with PLA batting are sold by Naturepedic.

If you’re looking for a vegan mattress that meets all mattress fire safety standards, check Avocado Vegan Mattress. This mattress uses natural graphite infused with organic latex to create a fire barrier within the mattress. This natural fire retardant exceeds all federal flammability and CPSC standards without the need for chemical flame retardants.

If you decide to buy a memory foam mattress, pick a CertiPUR-certified mattress. This certificate shows that the bed contains no harmful chemicals and fire retardants. These mattresses usually use fiberglass as their fire barrier. While fiberglass also comes with its risks (see below), it’s not toxic to humans.

Mattresses Without Flame Retardant Chemicals


Mattresses without flame retardant chemicals are usually organic mattresses made by manufacturers who prioritize their customer’s health as well as environmental protection. They are made with naturally fire-resistant materials like wool or plant fibers.

Mattresses without chemicals are also made to pass these standards like all other mattresses, including open flame tests. This means that organic mattresses have passed rigorous testing, which shows how well their chemical-free design performs under fire conditions. It’s important to note that even the safest fire barrier isn’t 100% effective, but its effectiveness is enough to meet federal flammability standards.

Some of the most renowned organic mattress producers with natural fire barriers are:


Botanical Bliss
From $1,199

Mattress Type: 100% Latex Mattress

Certificates: GOTS, GOLS, Greenguard GOLD, OEKO-Tex, Eco-INSTITUT®, FSC

Warranty: 25 Years

Sleep Trial: 100 Nights

Sizes: Twin, Twin XL, Full, Queen, King, Cal King


PlushBeds: This American company offers tufted natural latex mattresses, which are very high quality. They use certified organic materials to make their mattresses, including organic cotton and certified organic latex. Additionally, they have all their products tested to meet federal standards without the use of chemical flame retardants.

Naturepedic: This US-based company makes a variety of mattresses for children and adults, natural latex beds, with natural fire barriers. All their mattresses are made to meet federal flammability standards without the addition of chemical flame retardants. Their mattresses use natural materials such as wool and PLA fiber batting.

Brentwood Home: This American company makes a variety of mattresses, including latex and memory foam. Their organic mattresses use wool as their fire barrier and they are tested by a third-party organization to meet federal flammability standards.


How Do I Choose a Fire-Resistant Mattress?


When buying a mattress, ask whether it is free of chemical flame retardants. You can also ask if their mattress has been third-party tested to meet federal standards for flammability without the use of any chemicals.

Organic mattresses with wool or plant fibers have a natural fire barrier and, in most cases, they don’t contain the most harmful flame retardant chemicals. If you need a memory foam mattress, check that it’s CertiPUR-US certified. Mattresses with this certificate don’t contain any toxic flame retardant chemicals.


flame retardants in mattresses


Are Flame Retardants Dangerous?


Flame retardants can be dangerous if they come into contact with skin and are absorbed by the human body. Many of them can cause serious health effects, especially after repeated and regular exposure. Although the most toxic flame retardants have been banned, the ones that can be used are still potentially dangerous.

Regardless of the flame retardant used, all mattresses are thoroughly tested to meet federal standards for fire safety. Chemical-free organic mattress producers tend to be more concerned with keeping their mattresses chemical-free. This means they will use only natural flame retardants that pose no threat to human health or the environment, these include natural wool and latex.


Chemical flame retardants to avoid:


There are many flame retardants that pose a serious health risk, but here are some of the most toxic ones to avoid:


Boric acid


Boric acid has been shown to be harmful to the kidneys in long-term usage. Skeletal anomalies, cardiac abnormalities, moderate kidney damage, and impaired fertility in animals have been observed.

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)


PBDEs are potentially toxic flame-retardant chemicals that were commonly used in mattresses and upholstered furniture. This substance can be absorbed by the human body and its build-up can have a negative impact on the brain, liver, thyroid gland, and blood system.

Because PBDEs were banned in the United States in 2005, new mattresses should be manufactured without them. However, it’s best not to buy second-hand or old mattresses made before 2005 as they may still contain toxic PBDEs.

If you want to guarantee that your mattress is free of PBDEs, consider purchasing a new mattress made in the United States.


Decabromodiphenyl Oxide (Deca)


This fire retardant is also absorbed by the human body, as it can be found in blood and breast milk. This toxic substance is associated with thyroid issues, liver tumors, and developmental problems in kids.

In Maine and Washington, Deca is illegal. Its use is also restricted in California, Oregon, Montana, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.




This flame retardant can cause major health risks if it is found in your home. As it can be easily absorbed by the human body, it can cause a variety of health problems, such as kidney damage and bladder cancer.


Antimony Trioxide


Antimony Trioxide is considered a toxic substance by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is labeled as such. Apart from mattresses, the substance can be found in mattress pads and pillow top covers.

Antimony Trioxide can irritate the eyes, gastrointestinal tract, and respiratory system. It has been associated with chronic intestinal inflammation, pulmonary toxicity, and cancer.


Vinylidene chloride


Vinylidene chloride is a fire retardant chemical used in a variety of products, including mattresses. Vinylidene chloride has not been found to have acute effects on humans related to the central nervous system. Apart from that, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety, it’s also potentially carcinogenic.




Fiberglass is used in CertiPUr-certified mattresses instead of conventional chemical fire retardants. It creates a fireproof sock around the foam inside the mattress, preventing it from burning. However, as fiberglass is made up of tiny glass fibers, it can cause irritation if the fiberglass particles are inhaled. It can happen if the mattress cover is removed or damaged.

If you already suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma or bronchitis, avoid using a mattress with fiberglass to prevent further health complications. If you decide to buy a mattress with fiberglass, choose high-quality products made in the US to make sure that the cover is strong and thick enough to not let the fibers escape. Also, be sure never to remove the mattress cover.


flame retardants toxic




We hope that this roundup of chemical flame retardants in mattresses will be useful for you. While all flame retardant chemicals can be toxic, we’ve provided detailed information about the most common and dangerous ones that can be found in mattresses.

Be sure to check if your mattress is CertiPUR certified and, if not, try to buy a new one made in the US. Also, beware of second-hand mattresses and mattresses made before 2005 when PBDEs were still being used. Labels can also help determine whether your mattress has flame retardant chemicals in it, but sometimes these labels can be misleading and/or incorrect.

The safest way to prevent the potential health risks associated with PBDEs is by buying a new mattress made in the US without any chemical fire retardants added.

Remember, the healthier your mattress is, the better your sleep will be!

Your bed bet is to buy an organic mattress with a natural fire retardant such as wool. These mattresses will also be healthier and more breathing and free of any smell, as they contain no toxic chemicals whatsoever but they still pass all flammability tests, including the open flame test.

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