If Textiles Could Talk: “Does that color come in organic?”

In a prior blog  I wrote about the unfortunate toxicity of conventional dyes and how the textile industry historically has a devastating effect on the environment and people’s health. As populations continue to grow and eco-awareness spreads, the clothing industry will need to find viable solutions to this problem.

People have been using “natural” dyes made from plant, mineral, and animal ingredients for thousands of years. In fact, dyed flax fibers, dating back 36,000 years, were found in a cave in the Republic of Georgia. Today, cultures around the world continue the craft of natural dyeing to produce uniquely colored yarns and cloths.

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There is a huge variety of natural substances that can be used to color fabric. Having a broad chemical range, different substances require different techniques, and many require the use of a mordant. Mordants are metallic salts that bind the dye to the fabric, typically applied prior to submerging fabric into a dye bath. Many, but not all, traditionally used mordants are toxic, which presents the same problems as synthetic dyes: human exposure and wastewater disposal. Some popular natural dye extracts have a certain level of toxicity as well. Hmmm…

Though natural dyes can produce rich, complementary colors, many of the bright hues we see in stores are not available as natural dye colors. Even if consumers were to accept those limitations and switch to naturally dyed items only, we wouldn’t have enough land and water to produce all the dye material needed to color the human race’s wardrobes.

natural dyes

The concept of using agricultural waste as dye material makes good sense. Let’s see where that goes in the future. Ploughboy Organics, a blooming U.S. company, is developing a line of organic dyes and textiles using organic tobacco by-products, and claims the process will use less water and energy than conventional dyeing.

Noon Design Studio in Los Angeles specializes in dyeing natural fibers using natural ingredients and non-toxic mordants.

Saco River Dyehouse claims to be the only GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified yarn-dyeing factory in the U.S., and is now operating in Biddeford, Maine.

DIY. Safe, natural dyeing is definitely doable. If you do it yourself you can control which substances are used. I recommend you research the effects of the chemical compounds of each individual plant, mineral or animal used, as well as for the mordant recommended for each dye material.

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Until truly sustainable dyeing systems are invented and adopted for mass production, I recommend backing the alternatives. Buy GOTS-certified organic textiles that were produced using low-impact dyes or none at all. Support colorgrown cotton, hemp, untreated wools, and recycled fabrics. Look for up-cycled items (clothes and accessories made from repurposed textiles and used clothes).

If items are certified organic to the GOTS standard, they will have the following qualities:

  • All chemical inputs (e.g., dyes, auxiliaries, and process chemicals) must be evaluated and meet basic requirements for toxicity and biodegradability/eliminability
  • Prohibition of critical inputs such as toxic heavy metals, formaldehyde, aromatic solvents, functional nano particles, and genetically modified organisms (GMO) and their enzymes
  • The use of synthetic sizing agents is restricted; knitting and weaving oils must not contain heavy metals
  • Bleaches must be based on oxygen (no chlorine bleaching)

Here at Lifekind, we only use colorgrown organic cotton, meaning the colors you see are the natural colors of the plant fibers that were used to make the product– NO DYES! More on colorgrown cotton to come…

If Textiles Could Talk: “Those colors are to dye for!”

Have you ever wondered about textile dyes and the effect they have on the environment? The purpose of this blog is to shed a neon light on the subject. Be forewarned: the beautiful colors in your closet may look different after reading… The textile dyeing and finishing industry has a very dirty past, and due to environmental concerns, is finally facing pressure to clean up its act. The industry uses huge amounts of chemicals and vast amounts of water (100-150 liters of water to process 1 kg of textile material) and is known for poisoning rivers by dumping mega amounts of toxic, untreated wastewater (effluent) directly into waterways. Pigments in India Azo dyes and pigments are used to color most textiles and leathers. They are dangerous to work with, giving off carcinogenic amines. The name Azo is derived from the Greek a (not) + zoe (to live). With a name like that, it’s no wonder these dyes have an adverse affect on water resources, soil fertility, and eco-system integrity. The industry also uses significant amounts of bleaches, acids, alkalis, salts, stabilizers, surfactants, fire retardants, softeners, starches, heavy metals, and an assortment of dyes (acid, basic, disperse, mordant, reactive, sulphur dye, pigment, and vat). Most of these chemicals are applied using water as a medium. With the price of water consumption and effluent disposal increasing, some companies are beginning to look at ways to reduce water usage and find viable ways to treat effluent, while many dye houses will continue to use up local water supplies and dump untreated toxic wastewater into streams and rivers until the cows come floating home. dumpnowaste Air-dyeing is a waterless dyeing system, which uses less energy and no auxiliary chemicals and is twice as fast. Nike and IKEA have invested in DyeCoo, a waterless dyeing company, and Adidas’ DryDye shirts are made using this system. Currently air-dyeing industrial machines only work on polyester and are very expensive, but carbon dioxide, the substance used, is inexpensive and is also re-used in the process, saving money and resources. While waterless dyeing may be more environmentally friendly, synthetic dyes are still used, however. Low-impact dyes have been classified as eco-friendly by the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 (an international certification process). These dyes generally do not contain toxic chemicals or mordants (used to fix dye to fiber), require less rinsing, and have a high absorption rate, saving energy and creating less wastewater than conventional methods. Fiber-reactive dyes are low-impact synthetic dyes that bond directly with fibers and don’t require mordants or use heavy metals or known toxic substances. They use lower temperatures and shorter cycles, saving water and energy, and are now available in brighter and richer colors as well as having excellent colorfast propertiesclothe Low-impact, fiber-reactive dyes are the dyes of choice in eco-fashion, and Oeko-Tex 100 certified dyes are used on organic textiles to qualify for the GOTS certification. The Global Organic Textile Standard is in place to cover all of the post-harvest production and processing of fibers. Stay tuned for If Textiles Could Talk part 2, about “natural” dyes.

Is There Baking Soda In My Mattress?

Fortunately knock on wood I have never experienced a stove fire. Yet I have always kept a box of baking soda in the cupboard above the stove, just in case. And while it’s true that baking soda has been used for many years to stave off fires, I was surprised to learn that it has also been used in mattresses. So when I asked the president of Lifekind, Walt Bader, his opinion on this subject, I got quite an explanation — and, I must say, a major education.bakingsoda

According to Walt:

“There are some mattress manufacturers that say baking soda is safe because we bake with it, brush our teeth with it, and, in the form of carbon dioxide, even put it in beverages. So how can it not be safe?

“Technically, we don’t breathe in carbon dioxide (CO2), we excrete it in our breath as a waste product. Re-breathing into a plastic bag can cause carbon dioxide poisoning. At higher levels you can experience panic, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, unconsciousness, or even death. And even though we’re talking about CO2, not baking soda, when baking soda is involved in a fire, it produces…guess what? Carbon dioxide. And it is absolutely possible to experience anoxia (total depletion in the level of oxygen) or asphyxiation from breathing CO2, which is created when harmless baking soda reacts to the heat of a fire.

“CO2 can kill you. In a fire environment, I am less concerned with CO2 reducing levels of oxygen than I am with the fact that it regulates breathing function because of changes in pH in the sleeper’s blood.

“This is why we use the more expensive option of wool as the only flame retardant in our mattresses.”

http://www.waltbader.com

Is an organic mattress worth the money – A Peek Inside Mattresses

It’s no secret that Lifekind® is big on purity. It’s also no secret that other mattress makers claim to be big on purity too, so when consumers are searching for the purest mattress they can find, it quickly becomes a matter of sleuthing out the truth.

From the outside, most mattresses look about the same. I totally understand why people will see a mattress that claims to be “natural” or “organic” for a fraction of what a Lifekind mattress costs, and they purchase it.

Naturally, comfort is a big part of why people purchase the mattresses they do. But if you’ve found Lifekind, you’re most likely also interested in what goes into making our certified organic mattresses — what you will be sleeping on for the next 20 years. Let’s dig a little deeper and look inside a few different mattresses.

This first picture (below) shows a conventional synthetic foam rubber mattress, much like the ones you will find in mattress showrooms around the world. It looks pretty on the outside, nice and fluffy, and just begs you to climb into bed.

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But once you look inside, you see something completely different.

The first layer is the cover material. Then there are several layers of conventional synthetic foam (notorious for offgassing, not to mention the petroleum it contains and the hardship it puts on the Earth to produce), bleached and highly processed cotton, more foam, and then a base layer that is made from cotton scraps.

CompetitorMattressInterior

This second picture is of a popular “organic” mattress brand that specializes in crib mattresses. Underneath the “food-grade” polyethylene mattress cover (made entirely from petrochemicals), you can see bleached cotton. The blue layer is a Tyvek-like material. Then cotton that is of an unknown grade (the specks you see in there are debris – stems from the cotton plant, along with other unknown detritus), then a plastic mesh layer. The cotton filling they use is most likely organic, but other than that, this mattress does not contain organic materials. Yet it is selling every day because the manufacturer touts the benefits of its “organic” mattresses, misleading consumers into believing that they are purchasing a pure, organic mattress without offering any clue about what is going on inside the mattress.  Naturally, most consumers won’t cut open a new mattress, so there is no way for them to know.

The third picture shows the inside of a GOTS-certified organic Lifekind mattress.  Looking at the layers from the top down, you can see our organic quilting, which includes only certified organic wool and organic cotton cover material. Sandwiched between layers of certified organic cotton canvas is high-quality, certified organic cotton padding. No silica, Tyvek, or other synthetic, non-organic materials are included in its construction.  The innersprings used in the mattress are made of untreated virgin steel, wrapped in four layers of certified organic cotton.

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Imagine Organic Oceans

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Imagine a world without synthetic chemicals. Well, that is a bit extreme. It would rule out pharmaceuticals and many other “necessary” products. Nevertheless, that is the utopian image in the back of my mind when I choose to spend more money on organic food and goods. It’s that “saving the world” feeling I get that keeps me going the extra mile, literally, to the health food store instead of the closest grocery store.

I’m not supporting organics only because it’s healthier for my immediate family. In fact, I’m thinking of my bigger family, the bees, birds, deer, soil, fish, rivers and oceans who directly suffer from pesticide exposure.

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Imagine if everyone shopped for consumables with the bigger picture in mind. Is furniture consumable? Yes, it’s earth food, as it will end up in there some day. Let’s feed it organic! It’s not hard to start with organic basics: food; personal care; clothes; beds and bedding.

Find an organic store near you at these links:

http://www.organicstorelocator.com/

http://wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/list

 

“When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.” – John Muir’s journal, July 27, 1869

Sleep for Detoxification

Moderation is my default setting. I’m always looking for that comfort zone: Love the heat and sun but must find shade; happy in the winter snow with enough gear to keep me warm; I eat whatever I feel like but not too much (mostly organic of course). This pattern has kept me happy as a clam and moderately healthy for years.

 

Sometimes I wonder if I might need to step it up and, you know, DETOX. It’s spring, no better time, right? I would do it if I had to… eat raw foods only or fresh juice for weeks, but that’s just not my thing. Remember this is me – medium me. If you enjoy a good spring cleanse all the more green power to you!!

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Recently, I was listening to a health issues show on our local non-profit radio and the guest was a naturopathic practitioner who was answering callers’ questions. One question was, “what is a good detox diet?” Imagine my relief when she replied that she doesn’t recommend regular detox programs to people who are otherwise healthy. In fact good sleep was her remedy as our bodies go to work detoxifying at night, naturally. I’m thinking… sleep… I can do that. Not a problem.
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That got me to thinking about my quality of sleep, which is now a priority to address with my newly found resources here at Lifekind. Here’s my realistic, long-term detox plan:

  • Replace chemical bedding (automatically less toxins).
  • Continue to sleep 7-9 full hours each night.
  • Go to bed by 10:00 more often (according to Ayurvedic wisdom, an hour of sleep before midnight is equal to two hours after midnight. Also, the phase intended for detoxification is between 10pm and 2am.)

 

Here’s to your health!

 

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Positive Change Reduces Methyl Bromide Use

 

After reading an article from one of our local news services, I was inspired to share what appears to be a positive change about alternatives to using the highly controversial chemical methyl bromide for fumigating imported goods.

I was happy to learn that one alternative to the use of methyl bromide and other fumigants when importing fruits and vegetables is a technique called “controlled atmospheres,” which regulates temperature and atmosphere levels inside sealed shipping containers. Controlled-atmosphere technology is relatively inexpensive, highly effective, environmentally benign, and even improves the quality of shipped produce.

Methyl bromide (MeBr) is an odorless, colorless gas used as a soil fumigant and structural fumigant to control agricultural pests, and is the most widely used fumigant for quarantine purposes. Here at Lifekind we are well aware of the dangers of methyl bromide, and it’s one of the reasons why we do not import our cotton and wool from overseas. Most people do not realize that the cargo ships transporting raw materials are routinely fumigated with dangerous chemicals like methyl bromide.

There is confirmed scientific proof that the use of methyl bromide is one of the culprits contributing to the depletion of the earth’s ozone layer, and after recent damage to the East Coast from Hurricane Sandy, global warming is once again in the forefront of our national discussion. It’s important for people to know how much of an impact the emissions of methyl bromide have on the ozone layer. The ozone acts as a shield protecting life on Earth from damaging ultraviolet rays, which can cause sunburns, skin cancer, and cataracts. The rays can also harm marine life, and in the past two years, ozone holes larger than Europe have opened over the Antarctic Ocean.

I definitely recommend you read the article to learn about the changes that are helping to combat planetary ozone depletion.

 

Thirteen Scary Facts about Conventional Mattresses

It makes sense that an organic mattress would use organic cotton, but beyond that, most people may not be aware of many reasons that organic mattresses really are so much better than conventional mattresses. Lucky for you, we are experts in this area, and can break it down for you.

Warning: If you’re unsettled by things that are creepy, crawly, or contaminated, do not read before going to bed!


1. Bed bugs, dust mites, mold, and germs love your mattress
Bed-bugs and dust mites love to live in the dank, dark inside of a mattress online new balance shoes
. The environment also provides the perfect environment for molds & fungi to thrive in, along with bacteria, viruses, and contagious diseases. Because conventional mattresses are typically made with man-made materials like polyurethane foam, they don’t have the inherent dust-mite resistance that is a feature of the 100%-natural rubber latex used in the organic mattresses we make at Lifekind.

2.Your new mattress may not be new
Conventional mattresses can be sold, used, returned, and then resold as “factory seconds” or “refurbished.”  Even when they are “sterilized” with chemicals, many nasty things can be left behind.  A Dateline investigative report found bed bugs in all stages of life and death, blood, numerous forms of fungi and mold, and occasional traces of urine and fecal matter in refurbished mattresses that were in the same factory and sales-floors as new mattresses old new balance shoes
.  Only 26 states have laws on selling refurbished mattresses, and the government isn’t setting a standard on proper sterilization, which means it’s up to the mattress builder to determine whether or not a mattress is sterilized.  In the Dateline report, all of the mattresses tested were contaminated.

3. It’s pumped full of hazardous chemicals
Even if your mattress is brand new and uncontaminated, you’re not in the clear yet.  Did you realize that formaldehyde and boric acid are just two of the chemicals commonly used in the manufacture of conventional mattresses?  When Walt Bader, our CEO, was writing his book Toxic Bedrooms, he had a memory foam mattress tested by an independent lab and it emitted 61 VOC chemicals?  The chemicals used in your new mattress can aggravate allergies, cause respiratory irritation or bronchitis, affect your hormone levels, and even limit the amount of oxygen your body is able to absorb. Some chemicals are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and reproductive toxins, with warning labels advising “Caution – do not inhale,” “Use in a well-ventilated area,” “Can cause irritation,” or “Avoid contact with skin.”

4.   It can adversely affect the quality of your sleep and health
Cellular repair, rejuvenation, growth and healing all take place while you sleep. The chemicals that are used in the manufacture of conventional mattresses can cause all kinds of discomfort, and even illness. The range of symptoms can be as varied as the people affected, but one thing is for sure: If you’re sleeping on a toxic mattress, you’re not experiencing optimal health. For more details about the effects of sleeping on a toxic mattress, check out chem-tox.com

5. The bed you sleep in can harm future generations through inherited toxicity
Even if you’re one of the lucky ones that are totally unaffected and have children who sleep well without allergies or complaints, you can be certain that your grandchildren will show detectable amounts of harmful chemicals – even before birth!  Scientists have confirmed that chemical fire retardants, such as those used in conventional mattresses, have been measured in pregnant mothers and passed through the placenta to their unborn babies air max cheap shoes
.  The danger of these chemicals is that they build up and remain in fatty tissue for years, waiting to be shared with your growing baby. Even if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, there’s no way to know how three generations of built-up toxic chemicals will affect your grandchildren.

6. Suspected to contribute to SIDS
A toxic crib mattress is definitely not what you want your brand new baby to start life on. Many of the chemicals used to manufacture crib mattresses, including chemical flame-retardants, are suspected to contribute to SIDS – a logical assumption. Taking into consideration that babies have less mass overall, breathe faster, sleep more, and can’t communicate sources of irritation except by crying, they are by default more sensitive to toxic chemicals. Although research supporting this fact is shunned in general by the mattress and medical communities, common sense and anecdotal evidence from astute parents should not be ignored.  Besides, how many mothers wouldn’t rather be safe than sorry?

7.  Not actually built to last…
It only makes sense that in order to stay in business, a company must sell more product.  Unfortunately, many mattress manufacturers prey on their best customers by employing a trick called “built in obsolescence”.  They basically build a product that is meant to wear out at a certain time interval (often using cheaper materials that will break down more quickly), which forces the customer to pay good money to purchase another mattress from them. (So how do we stay in business?  We focus our marketing on consumers that don’t yet know the benefits of organic mattresses, and we use the best salespeople on the planet: customers who love their organic mattress are always sending their friends and family our way!)

8.  …Except that they last FOR-EV-ER
And not in the “super plush and comfy for a hundred years” kind of forever (see Scary Fact #7), but they will last forever in our landfills.  Even with mattress recycling being fairly effective, there are only 11 mattress recycling facilities in the entire country cheap white nike air max
.  This means that most mattresses end up in the landfills (to the tune of 10 million mattresses a year!)  The polyurethane foams and synthetic materials and fibers that are used in the construction of conventional mattresses are not biodegradable, which means that they will be polluting our Earth for generations to come.

9. Damaging to our natural resources
Commercially grown cotton is a huge offender in polluting the natural world, as are the toxic components used in polyurethane foam and the petrochemical, plastic-based fillers commonly found in, and on, conventional mattresses.  Many people are unaware that cotton is treated with substances such as formaldehyde even before flame retardants come into play, not to mention the harm that GMO crops and pesticides cause the environment.  The production and processing of conventional products is known to cause harm to the environment, and is thought to contribute to global warming.

10. The chemicals can cause irreparable harm to wildlife
The chemicals used in conventional mattress construction that can harm human health are also harmful to wildlife and pets.  Many people recall how the harmful pesticide DDT was an effective bug killer, but that it was also responsible for the deaths of thousands of birds and fish that ate the poisoned bugs, prior to being banned in the 70s.  Clearly our precious wildlife doesn’t have the option to choose organic, nor do they have the option to relocate beyond nature.

11.  Built with sweatshop labor and shipped halfway across the world
Laborers in third world countries build thousands of mattresses daily, working for wages that are a fraction of what a U.S.-based company, paying fair wages, pays their workers.  The finished mattresses are then shipped halfway across the world, subject to fumigation, and sold in American stores.  Basic economics has taught us that price is a huge reason why we choose to purchase an item in the first place, so companies will go to great lengths to make the cheapest product possible.  More often than not, products imported from overseas are sold for a fraction of what a U.S.-based company paying fair wages is able to sell its products for, which is great for the guy profiting off of these mattresses. Even when mattresses are made in the U.S., it’s important to be sure the raw materials are U.S.-grown also – otherwise you’re missing a huge opportunity to improve your own economy.

12.  Every “vote” for conventional mattresses perpetuates the problem
Beyond economics and financial support, it’s important to realize that every dollar spent makes a difference. You wouldn’t cast a ballot in favor of increasing pollution, or to support foreign labor or poor health. However, that’s what happens when you vote with your dollars and purchase mattresses made with conventional methods new balance casual shoes
.  Every dollar that goes towards the conventional mattress industry encourages their practices, strengthens their lobbying power and keeps the public uninformed and in a potentially dangerous position.  Every time a consumer selects a more healthful choice, we can chip away at the old-boys club that is the mattress industry.

13. We don’t know what we don’t know…
Even all of this information is just the tip of the iceberg, a scattered few facts that reflect the limited tests and research that have been done concerning conventional mattresses.  Most of the chemicals used have been deemed safe by default, since they are already in products, but lack the research to show what the long-term or more immediate effects are.  Mattresses are today, where cigarettes were 50 years ago.  As our knowledge increases about the chemicals used in conventional mattresses, we are sure to learn even more dangerous effects they could have on consumers.

It’s a scary thought that your mattress, which should be a safe-haven in your home, could actually be bad for you.

Washington Toxics Coalition

A recent study done by Duke University showed that 80% of common baby products tested contain high levels of toxic flame retardants linked to cancer, decreased IQ, thyroid disruption, and learning problems. All of the products contained polyurethane foam, a prime offender when it comes to chemical exposure in our everyday lives, and included crib mattresses, car seats, changing pads, and baby carriers. This is especially alarming because babies’ delicate systems are still developing and are extra vulnerable to chemical-laden dust and toxic fumes.

With every study that shows the risks of exposure to toxic chemicals, it becomes more important to make sure that babies and young children are exposed as little as possible. Look for products that are third-party certified for chemical offgassing, such as Lifekind’s GREENGUARD-certified organic crib mattresses. Avoid polyurethane foam whenever possible, and always ask what kind of flammability protection is used (wool is all we ever use at Lifekind).

Making informed decisions will go a long way toward protecting you and your family from the health effects of chemical exposure. For more information, go to watoxics.org/healthy-living/healthy-families/safe-start-for-kids-1/safe-start-for-kids, or give us a call at Lifekind — we’re always glad to help.

New Study Shows Flame Retardants Still a Threat

Back in the 1970s, consumers were shocked to learn that a flame retardant called Tris had been contaminating children’s pajamas with toxic chemicals. Clothing manufacturers stopped using it when the risk became publicized, but it was never officially banned in the U.S.

Now a report from Duke University shows that in recent tests, eight out of 10 commonly-sold baby products contain high levels of the retardant, long suspected as a carcinogen and linked to brain damage in infants and young children. More than a third of the products – all of which contained polyurethane foam – also tested positive for penta-PBDEs, neurotoxins that were banned in 2004 when it was found that toddlers with high levels of them had lower IQs and reduced motor skills. (Chemical flame retardants are typically added directly into polyurethane-foam mixtures, rather than applied to finished products, to meet flammability requirements.)

Products tested in this case included car seats, changing pads, and baby carriers, but polyurethane foam is also used widely in the manufacture of both crib and adult-sized mattresses and bedding.

Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, called the Duke findings a “wake-up call” for parents and manufacturers – and we agree.

“I am concerned about not only cancer,” Birnbaum says, “but reproductive or neurological effects as well – the developing brain.” Could there be any more urgent issue for parents or anyone concerned with the well-being of children?

Chemical companies, of course, continue to claim that their products are safe, and manufacturers defend their use (“protecting children is Evenflo’s number one priority…[we use chemicals to] meet mandatory federal and state flammability requirements”). It’s the same old story, bringing to mind cigarette manufacturers’ claims that smoking wasn’t a health threat until forced by government agencies to admit the danger.

There’s a safer alternative, of course: mattresses and other products made from CERTIFIED ORGANIC MATERIALS. Lifekind uses Texas-grown certified-organic cotton, 100%-natural rubber latex made from USDA-certified organic sap, and wool grown in California for flammability protection, PERIOD. Anything less is putting your own safety and the safety of your family at risk.

As a result of the study, Duke lead researcher Heather Stapleton told reporters she’s ridding her home of products that contain polyurethane foam and replacing them with safer products. Shouldn’t we all be doing the same?