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Why Do They Make Mattresses Fire Safe?

Dec 14, 2012

This is probably one of the most misunderstood areas of mattresses. Consumers are often confused as to the why mattresses have to pass fire retardation regulation, how they are made to pass these laws and how the materials can affect your health.

  1. All mattresses and toppers sold in the United States, whether foam, memory foam, wool, synthetic foam or organic latex mattresses and toppers must pass a fire test. These tests are conducted in a controlled environment and must be recorded and once these tests are conducted and recorded, they are registered with the State Bureau of Home Furnishings, who issue a prototype number, allowing the manufacturer to produce mattresses to the tested specifications. The manufacturer must burn three prototypes and they have to pass a test which includes being exposed to a heat source, open flame, on the surface, and it cannot ignite after a certain amount of time. The Government does not specify what type of material is used to pass the testing, just that the mattress passes. Companies can use any chemical or fabric, such as wool or toxic chemicals, and as long as it passes the test, that is all the government concerns itself with. 
  2. There is much confusion about how mattresses are treated to pass these tests. Despite common belief, mattresses are not dipped or doused in fire retardant materials. In fact, a fabric, called a sock, is treated with the fire retardant material or chemicals, and this materials is then wrapped around the foam core. Sometimes, the fire retardant materials can be sewn into the cover, or in the case of a natural organic mattress, wool is quilted into the cover, as wool is a natural fire retardant material. 
  3. Mattresses, once treated, are not fire proof but will resist catching fire. They will still catch fire and burn in a house fire. What the fire retardant material is designed to accomplish is to prevent a candle or cigarette from igniting the mattress, causing a fire. 
  4. All mattresses must have some kind of fire material, but the cheapest material is a chemically-treated "sock" and this is where much of the consternation over fire retardant materials comes from. In fact, if you go into a mattress store which sells Tempurpedic and ask what materials are used to make the mattress fire retardant, they will tell you "proprietary information" or "trade secret". In other words, they really don't want the public to know what materials you are taking into your body.
Whether purchasing a natural mattress or memory foam mattress, all beds in the USA have to pass fire retardant laws. When shopping, ask your salesperson what the brand you are considering uses, and follow up with research. Any responsible company will gladly divulge everything in their products and will not insult your intelligence by hiding thing from you. If they do, it should raise red flags and you should look for a brand and products that proudly display all of their ingredients.

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