After further enquiries to some manufacturers and suppliers about chemicals in bedding, I can offer the following updates for those who like to know more about the chemicals they are sleeping with. Most of the companies I contacted were helpful in supplying specific information (although an enquiry to the manufacturers of Tontine products received no response).
I can report that the Dunlop foam that is used in bedding is not treated with Ultra Fresh DM50, which is the formulation that contains the particularly nasty chemical tributyltin (see my other post). Instead Dunlop foam is treated with another formulation of Ultra Fresh (there are many) which uses a chemical called thiabendazole at a concentration of <0.1 percent. This product is marketed as Ultra-Fresh PF-1: it is registered in Australia with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authorityand you can see the details (including product label) here. The local suppliers of this product to Dunlop, Protective Tech nology Pty Ltd, have kindly supplied a statement (PDF) from the manufacturer of Ultra Fresh, Thomson Research Associates, about their use of thiabendazole and the claimed low toxicity of the product as an anti-microbial.
The USA EPA risk assessment of thiabendazole can be viewed here. This chemical has wide application, for example as a sheep dip and as a fungicide for fruit and vegetables. Interestingly the EPA refer to possible domestic uses in paints and carpets, but no reference to possible use in bedding — where potential exposure is more up close and personal for 8 hours each day.
For those of us who are chemically sensitive, even supposedly ‘low toxic’ substances can sometimes affect us differently than the average person. It is hard to know exactly what chemical it was that I was reacting to three years ago when I purchased a new inner spring mattress. As the person from Protective Technology pointed out, chemicals are not just applied to the mattress foam but also to the ‘ticking’ or fabric covering of the mattress. The mattress in question that I purchased three years ago was not a major brand, so it is difficult to follow up now to find out more about what exactly they were using in each of the mattress components.
Out of interest, I also made enquiries of one of the brand leaders in inner spring mattresses, Sealy of Australia, who make the Posturepedic range, to ask if they could tell me what chemicals were used in their mattresses. I explained that I am chemically sensitive. They promptly replied with an email that included Material Safety Data Sheets for all the chemical additives used in the mattress components:
- Devacaps Probiotex. Described as microcapsules containing a multicomponent mixture of organic oils and materials in a polymer shell. Not sure of what this is used for — if anyone knows, let me know.
- HealthGuard PLB. This appears to be an anti-microbial product. It contains isothiazolinone and permethrin. Judging by their toxicological information (see preceding links), both of these chemicals look suspect for anyone who may have chemical sensitivity.
- HeiQ Adaptive AC-03. This contains triisobutyl phosphate which appears to be used as flame retardant. There is a toxicology report on this chemical here.
Sealy deserve credit for responding with detailed information and they also said they could make no guarantees that a chemically sensitive person such as myself would not have problems with their mattresses. For chemically sensitive people, or for anyone who prefers a chemical-free sleep, it looks like the best options are a cotton futon or the imported European mattress product supplied by Bedtek, as mentioned in my other post.
It appears that tributyltin is not now commonly used in mattresses in Australia, although I see that Ultra Fresh DM50, which the PAN Pesticide Database says contains tributyltin, is listed as an ingredient in the LilyPad Memory Foam Mattress which is designed for babies (!). This mattress is marketed in Australia by Medtel Australia.
It is unclear whether tributyltin is now officially banned for use in bedding in Australia, or whether most manufacturers have simply decided to use other more ‘benign’ chemicals in response to public pressure. I have found some evidence (minutes of a meeting of the Commonwealth-State enHealth Council 21-22 March 2001) that Channel 9’s A Current Affair ran an expose about the use of tributyltin in bedding back in 2001 — perhaps that galvanized some action by regulators and/or manufacturers.
Ultra-Fresh DM50 does not appear to be registered with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. However, Ultra-Fresh 300DDN, which contains tributyltin oxide as well as triclosan, is registered with the Authority, for use in mattress pads and fill, and feathers and down. See the registration entry (including link to PDF of the product label) here. Interestingly, the USA EPA recommendation about approved uses of TBT (see my other post) explicitly excludes mattress pads from the list of approved uses. The Australian registration of this chemical therefore seems to be less restrictive than the EPA’s. In any event I personally suggest you keep well away from any bedding and mattresses which contain either of these Ultra-Fresh tributyltin products (300DDN and DM50). Keep in mind that some bedding or furniture products may be imported, having been manufactured in even more lax regulatory environments, and it may be harder to ascertain what treatments have been applied.