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Studies show that when a person is sleeping on a mattress with such chemicals, the toxins can seep into the body through the skin. This is supported through scientific research that has shown PCDE's to be found in women's breast milk in the U.S., a fact that has led many to fear that children are more likely to suffer greater than adults from mattress toxicity. Further, infants and children spend more time sleeping, resulting in an increased amount of exposure time. Compounding the issue, mattresses made for children are not only made with additional chemicals to prevent wetness from destroying a mattress, but are manufactured to prevent the mattress from burning at high degrees. Researchers are questioning the origin of the increased incidences in pediatric respiratory issues, such as asthma, learning disabilities (specifically Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and lower IQ levels. Some have speculated there is a strong correlation between these issues and the materials used in children's mattress and bedding items.

Additionally concerning is the chemical PVC, which is often used with phthalates to create a softer mattress. Phthalates are known to cause breathing disorders and have links to cancer. There is conflicting research linking PVC to the increase of infant crib deaths; however, research to the affirmative is not being recognized by the government and is understandably a controversial topic.

Another study, utilizing mice, was conducted to measure the effect of breathing the emission (off-gassing) of four types of mattresses on the respiratory system. This study revealed that all mattresses containing synthetic materials caused upper-airways irritation in up to 57% of the breaths measured, and saw decreased air flow by 17-23%. The worst violator was a combination of polyurethane foam and a vinyl cover – the type used in most crib mattresses. On the other hand, the old-fashioned mattress materials (organic cotton padding) actually caused increases in both respiratory rate and tidal volume as opposed to the decreased levels measured with the synthetic replacements. Unfortunately, organic cotton is not readily available for mattress use, thus most manufacturers opt for synthetic foams to provide comfort in their mattresses.

Research Links Materials to Disease

As we begin to connect the dots with the rise in critical disease and the materials people are exposed to in the home, a closer look at some of the research specifically focusing on substances found in mattresses is needed. When evaluating toxic exposure while sleeping, it is important to keep in mind that at different stages of life the amount of sleep needed will vary. Humans have sleep cycles and sleep schedules, which are important and unique to each of the life stages.

There are four stages of non-REM sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and sleep researchers prize levels III & IV non-REM sleep for its healing properties as that is when the brain repairs and nourishes the body. REM sleep is also important, as this is when the subconscious mind expresses itself through dreams. As people age, the amount and type of sleep needed changes and the exposure to the materials in mattresses will also change. Infants, children and pregnant women, for example, require more sleep per day in order to develop and function properly; non-pregnant females and male adults require less sleep, a requirement which decreases as age progresses. Let's take a look at the sleep needs of humans as they progress through their lives, as well as some of the relevant toxicity and materials research related to particular stages in life.

Pregnant Women

When females become pregnant they are encouraged to increase their time sleeping to greater than eight hours each day. A study released from the University of California, San Francisco reveals that an overwhelming percentage of pregnant women in the U.S. may have high levels of toxic environmental chemicals — some illegal — in their bodies. The trial found that out of the 268 pregnant women tested for toxins, 100 percent showed traces of several individual chemicals in their blood or urine. They include certain PCBs, organochlorine pesticides, PFCs, phenols, PBDEs, phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and perchlorate. Two new studies have provided even more evidence that toxic chemicals used in everyday products contaminate the bodies of pregnant women, who then pass the chemicals on to their fetuses before birth. Scientists from both the Harvard School of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that certain chemicals like PCBs, toxic flame retardants, and Teflon chemicals move across the placenta to the fetus, with concentrated levels found in breast milk. Most women in the U.S. are sleeping on a modern mattress that is full of synthetic foams that contain these toxins.

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