The National Fire Protection Association reports that between the years of 2005 and 2009 there were roughly 10,260 fires that began with the igniting of mattresses or bedding. These fires claim the lives of 371 people each year and result in approximately $382 million in property damage annually.
The numbers are grim. However, these numbers are significantly lower than those prior to regulations passed in 2007, by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), requiring all mattresses to meet certain standards for fire retardation.
How much lower are these number post-2007? In 2009, the number of fires beginning with the ignition of bedding and mattresses was 85 percent lower than in 1980. Deaths from these fires decreased by 61 percent.
The PBDE Fallacy
The simple solution many mattress makers went with was to use PBDEs (Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers), which are commonly used in flame retardant products, including mattresses. The problem is that they present more than a few dangers to humans and household pets. Felines, in particular, have shown susceptibility to PBDEs in association with feline hyperthyroidism, which is potentially fatal.
In humans, the primary concern is that PBDEs are now found in human blood and in breast milk. Further research also indicates that pre and postnatal exposure to even low levels of PBDEs has an adverse effect on neurobehavioral development in children.
Unfortunately, this is the most common material used for flame retardation in mattresses – which are now required in all mattresses. This means that consumers who wish to avoid exposing themselves, their families, and their pets to these toxins, must seek mattresses that offer safe, effective, fire retardant mattress alternatives, like all natural wool or a combination of silica and plant fibers.
Reducing Fire Risks
Prevention is always the best cure. Changing behaviors can reduce the risks of mattress fires more than the inclusion of any materials designed to slow the rate at which fires spread. While no one will argue that including fire retarding materials in mattresses, bedding, and even children’s pajamas is a bad thing, there’s also nothing wrong with making a few changes in behavior that will boost the effect further by reducing the risks of fires in the bedroom altogether.
- Never smoke in bed.
- Educate family members on fire safety.
- Turn off portable heaters before going to sleep.
- Keep matches and lighters out of the reach of children.
- Do not allow portable heaters to run unattended.
- Avoid burning candles in or near bedding.
- Extinguish candles before going to sleep.
Finally, consider buying a natural latex mattress from PlushBeds. Our Botanical Bliss latex mattresses use no chemical fire retardants. Instead, we use 100 percent pure Joma New Zealand wool, which provides a natural flame resistant barrier that exceeds federal standards without harmful chemicals. Our Natural Bliss latex mattresses take a vegan approach, and use fire barriers that are made from silica and plant fibers.
Small steps like these prevent fires and save lives. Eco fire barriers help slow the spread of fires long enough to get your family to safety, just as PBDEs do. The difference is that eco-friendly options pose fewer risks to your family than exposure to PBDEs. Keep this in mind as you compare mattresses, and look for earth-friendly options that are healthy to bring into your home.
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