The other day I heard a colleague say something that made me think. She was talking with a customer and describing today’s “chemical” mattress market as being a lot like the tobacco industry of the fifties. People were told back then that cigarettes weren’t bad for them, the same way today’s consumers are told that chemical flame retardants and formaldehyde-containing memory foam in mattresses aren’t just safe, but can even be good for them — and it worked like a charm. Skyrocketing cancer rates were the result.
Growing up in the seventies, with the Surgeon General’s warning on every cigarette pack, I wondered how Americans of my parents’ generation could have been so naive. How could they not have known that smoking was dangerous? Sure, cigarette ads featured endorsements from beloved movie stars, cartoon characters, even the family physician (“More doctors smoke Camels than any other brand!”), but average people must have known intuitively that something was wrong. Right?
I’m guessing that Americans back then, like us, wanted to believe that something they enjoyed was safe, and that the government would tell them if it wasn’t. Yesterday’s cigarette ads featuring leading physicians have become today’s two-page layouts for memory-foam mattresses in environmental magazines, targeting a health-oriented clientele that would run in the opposite direction if they knew what memory foam was actually made of.
Hazardous chemicals are a part of almost everything we use, including our mattresses, and cancer rates have never been higher. Could there be a connection? Many consumers don’t want to think so.
After all, the government would tell us if it were dangerous. Right?
(To see test results showing over 60 volatile chemicals emitting from a memory-foam mattress, see Walt Bader’s book Toxic Bedrooms: Your Guide to a Safe Night’s Sleep.)
Sylvia, Sales Supervisor