People spend roughly 33.3% of their lives asleep. That means a third of everyone's life is spent lying on a mattress. If your mattress isn't 100% safe, it's time you know about it.
In August 2015, J.M. Mattress had to recall their mattresses because they didn't fulfill the national requirements for flammability - meaning they actually posed a fire hazard in your home. This wasn't the only example of problems with mattresses these days. Mattresses can sometimes actually be toxic to you, containing chemicals in their materials that slowly deteriorate your health, causing problems like asthma, skin problems, allergies, and even cancer.
It's important to know what mattresses have that might do you harm, so you can effectively avoid using them when purchasing a new one. The worst materials that your mattress can contain are polyurethane foam, a material made from petroleum that lets off VOCs; formaldehyde, flame retardants, and boric acid, which is shockingly used to kill cockroaches. Formaldehyde has had extensive research into its correlation with asthma, lung cancer, and allergies while flame retardants can cause cancer and nervous system disorders.
Back in 2005, a memory foam mattress was discovered to be letting off 61 chemicals in a study. Governments are slowly stepping in to ban certain chemicals, but not enough has been done to assure your complete safety. PBDEs, for example, have been banned in many countries because of their correlation with thyroid hormone functional problems among other things.
Another problem is that once one chemical is banned, another comes to replace it, which might not have legal restrictions yet but probably has its own set of health hazards.
Like with the recent J.M. Mattress recall, the government has generally been more focused on preventing flammability in mattresses. Legally, all beds need to make it through flammability testing before they can go on the market. This has good intentions since a fire in the home made worse by a highly flammable mattress would be devastating. However, the ways mattress companies go about decreasing a mattress' flammability are not necessarily safe.
Plenty of toxic chemicals, some of which are outlined above, have been used as flame retardants. In fact, a large number of the chemicals used in mattresses that have been banned were flame retardants - so clearly the flammability question needs to be addressed in a more responsible way.
What can you do?
Luckily, there are a few companies that are very aware of these risks and are committed to creating mattresses that meet health and safety requirements without using the toxic chemicals of "normal" mattresses.
Don't be deceived by companies that simply call their mattresses "natural" without giving a precise explanation of what they mean - the same goes for the word "organic" or any similar terms. These will probably be clever marketing tricks to try to make you think that their mattresses are safe. Reliable companies will be able to tell you all about your mattress' production and origins, as well as exactly what is in it.