Commonly Available Cotton Sheets and Bedding May Be a Severe Health Risk
By Mark Sweiger
My mother used to tell me, “There are two things in life for which you should spare no expense, your bed and your shoes.” Her reasoning was that if you are not in your bed, then you must be in your shoes, and your health and quality of life is greatly affected by either one. In this article I will discuss the first half of this equation, the health of your bed, which affects all aspects of your physical and mental performance.
I have written other articles on the importance of using an organic mattress, but it is equally important to use organic sheets, pillowcases and blankets on top of your bed because your bedding makes direct contact with your body for 8 hours every night. Just as using a natural mattress protects you from the toxic effects of petrochemical foams and polyester in conventional mattresses, organic bedding protects you from harmful chemicals present in most commercial bedding.
I am sure you are thinking, “My current bedding is fine, it can’t harm me, especially if I would wash it and change it more often.” While I can’t help you wash and change your bed more often, you need to know that most commercially available sheets and pillowcases are made from a 50/50 blend of conventionally grown cotton and polyester, which is not safe. Let me explain why:
Cotton is a very useful fiber that has many good qualities: It is hypoallergenic, it wicks away moisture well for a nice dry feel, it is relatively soft, and it washes and dries well. But cotton is also the most heavily sprayed crop on earth and 25% of the world’s pesticides are used for cotton production. These pesticide residues build up in cotton as it grows, and they can be transferred directly to your bedding when it is made from non-organic cotton. Once you sleep on this contaminated cotton, pesticide residue can pass through your skin and into your body.
Non-organic cotton is bad enough, but the polyester, which comprises the other 50% of your 50/50 blend bedding, is made from petrochemicals that shouldn’t be anywhere near your body. Polyester contains chemicals caused phthalates, which are used to make the fibers more flexible, and these chemicals mimic the female hormone estrogen in the human body. Constant exposure to phthalates and other plasticizers in food containers, dinnerware, polyester upholstery and other sources, has been linked to cancers and the dramatic drop in male fertility that has happened during the last 60 years. Polyester also traps water vapor, which causes night sweats, jock itch and athlete’s foot. It is included in sheets because it is inexpensive and makes sheets more durable and wrinkle-free. But is this worth the potential health consequences?
The solution to this problem is to use organic cotton sheets and pillowcases on your bed. As the concern has grown over the pesticides in conventionally grown cotton and the phthalates in polyester, organic cotton bedding has become more widely available. Organic grown cotton is now being produced worldwide, from Texas to India. The organic cotton is woven into sheets and pillowcases that look and feel like commercially available bedding, without the pesticides and the polyester. I also find these sheets to be much more comfortable for sleeping because they don’t trap moisture like 50/50 cotton/polyester blends.
Better organic sheets are pre-shrunk using steam and are totally machine washable and dryable. They have just a few more wrinkles out of the dryer than the 50/50 blends, but that is a small price to pay for a healthy bed. We can all live with some wrinkles, but we may not be able to live with cancer.
Manufacturers of organic cotton bedding include:
-Coyuchi, located in Point Reyes Station, California, which imports organic cotton bedding and bath linens from India.
-EcoDownUnder, which is located in Sydney, Australia, which imports organic cotton bedding and bath linens to the United States.
-Native Organic, located in El Segundo, California, which makes organic cotton bedding and bath linens from Texas-grown organic cotton.
-Under the Canopy, located in Boca Raton, Florida, which makes organic cotton sheets and towels that are imported from Brazil, as well as organic cotton clothing.
Organic cotton sheets, pillowcases, mattress pads, and blankets from these manufacturers are now being sold across the United States through local retailers that specialize in natural fiber bedding. There are also a number of nationwide Internet retailers for organic cotton sheets and bedding, and one of the largest is Dax Stores.
Organic cotton sheets and bedding cost a little more than conventional bedding, but, like my mother said, you shouldn’t be afraid to spare some expense your bedding because it will repay you with better health. I think your health is worth that extra expense, and so would my Mom, bless her heart.
About the Author
Mark Sweiger is a freelance reporter on home and garden topics and ecological news. He is a definite believer in the value of flannel sheets and organic bedding (see http://www.daxstores.com/flannel-sheets.html and http://www.daxstores.com/organic-bedding.html for a further introduction to these).
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