Fire retardant (or FR) is a big issue today. The internet is filled with contradictory information. Some say it’s dangerous to your health, while many companies (and even government organizations) will tell you it is completely safe.
The nutshell of what I think is basically this: FR is not really helpful or necessary if you use common sense. Follow some basic rules of home fire safety (like maybe find someplace other than your bed to smoke cigarettes after downing a fifth of bourbon if that kind of thing is your jam) and the flammability of your mattress should not be as much of an issue. From a health standpoint, you are PROBABLY okay sleeping on a mattress with an FR layer but why risk it if it isn’t needed?
All we need to make legally your bed without the added fire retardant material is a note from your doctor saying that we can leave it out. There is a link below to a .pdf file that you can have your doctor print on their stationary, sign, and send to us. It is as easy as that!
Read on if you would like more information:
There are many chemicals that go into the manufacture of the FR sock that is typically used in the mattress industry and I will give some information on a few of them. Again, please remember that these are my opinions in a nutshell. I do not have a degree in this stuff.
The best study that I am aware of on antimony was done in a smelting facility in 1967. It was found that workers in this facility had a higher than normal rate of lung cancer than was normal at the time. There were a few problems with this study, though. The most glaring to me was that they did not control for who in the study was a smoker. In addition, the people in the study also worked in close contact with antimony that had been heated beyond its melting point. I would imagine inhaling the fumes from most things heated to that point would be harmful and I am not aware of any consumer products at all that involve any kind of molten antimony. Basically, in my opinion, we do not have enough information to really come to a logical conclusion one way or another.
Boric Acid (Zinc Borate)
Again, there really does not seem to be much data on what Zinc Borate does to humans. We have seen some problems at high doses and on animals but it is hard to draw a conclusion on how high-level exposure on rabbits and guinea pigs translates into its effects on humans.
The thing that I have come across many times in this category is that organophosphates are used in pesticides. While true, water is also commonly used in pesticides to that detail alone means basically nothing. All the data that I have found indicates that organophosphates are totally safe in this application.
PBDE (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers)
To be fair, THIS is the category that worries me. There are some indications (mostly on rats) that this stuff can cause cancer, thyroid dysfunction, as well as a bunch of neural problems. Again, there is not really evidence that it DOES cause these problems in humans. For me and my family, though, I would rather err on the side of caution, especially when it is so easy to leave the stuff out of the product entirely.
Please understand that, while I am an expert on mattresses, I am in no way a chemist, biochemist, doctor, or any kind of an expert on what is or is not safe. Everything I am writing here is my personal opinion and I would encourage you to do your own research.
So what is the theme of this article? For me it is that there is not enough data for my comfort. Do I have FR in my mattress? I do not. My feeling is that you should do some of your own research and decide for yourself whether you want to bring fire retardant materials into your bedroom.
Doctor’s Note to Not Use FR- [Link here]
Antimony Trioxide – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK225648/
Zinc Borate – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK225633/
Organophosphates – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26294315
PBDE – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1069057/