Latex mattresses are a hypoallergenic alternative to the traditional mattress. Since most latex mattresses are promoted as natural or organic, they use wool fibres instead of chemical flame retardants. However, this method does not always meet flammability requirement standards.
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Natural latex mattresses are produced primarily from rubber trees, with cotton and wool quilting. No mattress or fabric is completely fireproof, but some fabrics do burn more slowly and with a higher ignition temperature than others. Untreated wool has a low burn rate, and the possibility to self-extinguish, with an ignition temperature of 600 degrees Celsius. Due to new standards in safety, including the open flame test that uses temperatures up to 1980 Celsius, even wool is required to have some chemical treatment, according to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Safety Code 16 CFR 1633, which came into effect in July 2007, raised the standards for mattress testing. Federal law has mandated that mattresses be resistant to cigarette ignition since the late 1970s, but the new code addresses open flames such as candles, which could start a fire. These standards limit the heat release of a fire and work to keep flames from quickly spreading. It is extremely important to check packaging to make sure any mattress you buy meets federal safety qualifications.
Some chemical-free mattresses are available by prescription. Alternatively, manufacturers are working to make safer treatments that meet qualifications, such as PlushGuard, which doesn't use boric acid or PBDE (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers), two common chemicals in additives that are believed by some to be toxic or unhealthy to sleep on. Some mattresses use silicon, which is fire resistant but may create a respiratory hazard. The safest thing to do is research carefully when purchasing a new mattress, and keep smoke detectors in every room.
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