About four years ago, John Muccino and his wife, Diane, bought a brand-name mattress from a chain store. Shortly after it arrived, they noticed a persistent, odd smell coming from the mattress. Diane began experiencing cold-like symptoms that she attributed to the new bed. John says he needed more convincing at first.
“We researched what goes into mattresses and what chemicals are coming out of them and found that some were potentially harmful,” John recalls. “We decided to get an organic mattress, and since there were no stores in our area that sold them, we found out who made the purest organic mattress, bought it from them, and soon opened the store.”
That store is The Organic Mattress, on Boston Post Road, in Sudbury, which sells mattresses made from organic cotton and wool from the United States and natural rubber from trees in Brazil and Sri Lanka. Their innerspring mattresses also use recycled steel, and all mattresses are hand made in New York or California.
John explains that mass-produced, commercial mattresses often contain volatile organic compounds (VOC), which are emitted as gases. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lists VOCs as indoor air pollutants that are also found in paints and varnishes. Additionally, polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDE)—chemicals that act as flame retardants in synthetic mattresses— have become a health concern according to the EPA, due to evidence that they accumulate in living organisms, potentially causing liver, thyroid and neurodevelopmental toxicity.
“European countries proposed bans on PBDEs more than 15 years ago,” says John. “But here in America, penta-BDE production didn’t stop until 2004, and deca-BDE production will continue until it’s phased out by 2013.”
John also refers potential customers to the website Chem-Tox.com. There, researchers and consumers make the argument that contemporary commercial mattresses and pillows are filled with petroleum-based compounds and chemicals that can cause everything from headaches and rashes to breathing and sinus problems over short- or long-term exposure. The concern is especially great for children, says John, who notes that asthma and allergies may result from exposure to toxic bedding. “Children today have the advantage that their parents can buy them an organic mattress.”
Yet less than 1 percent of consumers who buy mattresses choose organic, John reports. When they do, it’s likely that they have already taken other steps to improve their well-being. “The mattress is not their first lifestyle change, but may be one of the last,” he says. “They’ll change their food and some of their clothing and finally, their bedroom, which is where they spend a third of their life, because they want to make sure it’s a healthy environment.”
The Organic Mattress also sells organic sheets, comforters, custom-made natural fiber pillows, and mattress toppers and pads made from wool, latex and cotton. Shoppers can try out mattresses in the store and receive samples of the materials to sleep with before making the investment. “Compared to a high-end mattress from a manufacturer like Sealy, Simmons or Serta, we’re probably about 20 percent higher,” John notes. “Customers say it’s always worth the extra cost, and they appreciate that when we say we’ll deliver the mattress at 10 o’clock, we’re there at 10. We also take our shoes off and remove pictures from the wall, so nobody’s house is compromised by movers.”
John makes deliveries as nearby as Maine and as far away as Manhattan, sharing a delivery truck with a neighboring business to save on fuel consumption and reduce pollution. A customer’s old mattress is carted away for free and donated to Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts, in Acton (HGRM.org), where volunteers gather and distribute household items for area residents in dire need. John notes that older conventional mattresses may be safer than their new counterparts because the outgassing of harmful chemicals has been reduced over time.
When asked why they chose this business over others, the Muccinos’ reasons are both altruistic and self-serving. “We feel we’re doing something better for the environment, because we’re not putting chemical-filled mattresses in landfills,” says John. “And it’s healthier for people. They’re not breathing in chemicals. Also, the quality of sleep is better with a good mattress; I would have never believed the difference until I tried it.”
The Organic Mattress is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tues.-Sat., and after hours by appointment at 348 Boston Post Rd., in Sudbury. For more information, call 877-440-8282 or 978-440-8200 or visit TheOrganicMattress.com.