There’s something so clean-feeling about a new mattress, isn’t there? You might feel like practically body-surfing onto it in delight. Ooo, this one feels so pristine. Ohhh, that one has such velvety fabric. Ahhh...here’s one that’s blindingly WHITE. That means pure, right? ....Right?
Here's why it's important to think about what’s beneath the surface of synthetic fabrics. What organic textile standards forbid offers some clarifying clues.
GOTS-certified organic fabric must meet the stringent and relatively new Global Organic Textile Standard. The U.S. National Organic Program requires that in addition to using organically-grown raw materials, GOTS-certified textiles must exclude a few things.
Toxic fabric dye
Pretty fabric colors, including many natural-looking hues, are almost always produced with killer dyes. Pun intended. Most synthetic dyes start with highly-toxic and carcinogenic coal tar which, while it won’t rub off on skin, pollutes the water near textile factories. Worse are the heavy metal “mordants” used to treat fabric before dyeing to help it absorb color. Cadmium, copper, nickel, cobalt and chrome are used during most dye processes. Discharged in water exiting the plant, they kill aquatic animals and harm the health of communities downstream.
Toxic fabric finishes
Sand-blasting may produce a soft finish, but it poses a serious health threat to workers. Chlorine bleaches poison both the people who apply them and the water that exits the textile plant. Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen used to produce many elegant fabric finishes, is also forbidden under the GOTS standard. A more recent industrial development is extra-insidious—nano-particle treatments intended to make fabrics “antibacterial” may kill some germs, but also damage DNA.
A factory’s effluent, or the wastewater that is flushed from the plant after use, cannot be released unless it has been treated and filtered. Without this precaution, textiles made in the plant will not be certified organic. The requirement protects local groundwater and also prevents toxic impacts on eco-systems downstream.
Organic certification also covers worker welfare. Organic-textile workers must be paid a living wage and cannot be blocked from forming unions. Most importantly, child labor is forbidden. These criteria are critical when an organic textile is imported from a country where exploitative labor practices are common. In the U.S., child labor in textile manufacturing ended with the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938.
GOTS-certified textiles must be kept separate from non-GOTS-certified products. This measure prevents contamination from the toxic chemicals and finishes that are routinely used to manufacture conventional textiles, and may linger in the facility.
When you choose a mattress made with an organic casing, you’ll sleep easier. In addition to helping safeguard your own health, choosing certified organic fabric is one way you can make the world’s dreams more peaceful, too.