There is ever-increasing awareness of the chemicals we come into contact with every day, particularly if you or a member of your family has asthma or allergies. We created the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program to help you improve your indoor environment by identifying products and services that can help to reduce allergens and create a healthier home environment.
But what is it that makes some bedding better for the indoor environment than others, and where do we draw the line to decide to certify bedding as asthma & allergy friendly®? We hope that the questions below will clarify this. Let us know if you have more questions!
Why do we certify bedding?
- Help people create a healthier indoor environment and reduce allergens in the home
Our goal in the asthma & allergy friendly® Certification Program is to create a healthier indoor environment for you and your family, and so we look at all elements of the indoor air environment.
The most common allergen found in bedding comes from dust mites, which are tiny bugs that live in the dust in mattresses, pillows, carpets, beddings, soft toys, etc.
Dust mite allergen can pass through some fabrics, and this can cause an allergic reaction. It is important that dust mites and their allergen can be removed from products by washing, and it is also important that the product can withstand regular washing.
Some bedding can contain chemicals that can irritate skin.
What kind of bedding do we certify?
We certify a whole range of bedding products: pillows, comforters, mattress pads, mattress and pillow protectors, sheets and pillowcases, comforter covers, mattresses, infant mattresses, waterproof mattress and pillow protectors, and feather and down pillows.
What do we look for in bedding?
We look at four areas when we test bedding.
- Allergen Barrier
- Removal by Washing
- Quality of the Product
- Chemicals and VOCs
1. Allergen Barrier
The first is whether the fabric on the outside of the product can stop dust mites and dust mite allergen from passing through to make contact with your skin. We pull dust across the fabric in a laboratory setting, and measure how much of the dust mite allergen gets through the fabric. We set a strict limit for this, to reduce exposure. Sometimes, the seams on products can be an easier way for dust mites to escape. If a product has seams or if it has a zipper, we run the same test on the seams and zipper, to make sure the product really is a barrier to allergen.
2. Removal by Washing
The second is to make sure that any allergen on the bedding products are really removed by washing. We place the product in a climate-controlled chamber, and we lay it beside other bedding products that already have dust mites in them. This is so that the dust mites will move across to the new bedding product, in a way that mimics what happens in your bedroom. We leave it there for six weeks, and then we wash it, and we test it afterwards to make sure that the allergen has been removed.
3. Quality of the Product
Dust mites are found in all soft furnishings, and so if you are sensitive to them, it’s important to wash your bedding, toys etc, regularly. The quality of products needs to allow for regular washing, without becoming lumpy or misshapen. We wash the products 18 times (12 times for larger items like comforters), to make sure that they maintain their shape and appearance.
4. Chemicals and VOCs
Various chemicals can be used when bedding is being made. We test all the materials in the bedding product for chemicals such as azo dyes, pesticides, allergens and irritants, to make sure that any chemicals that are known to be irritants to the skin are either not present, or are present at such a low level that they are unlikely to cause a problem.
Are there VOCs in bedding?
VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) are chemical compounds that easily become vapours or gases. When you can small paints, adhesives, new furniture, and even sometimes new bedding, these smells are caused by VOCs being released. We make sure that any VOC emissions from the bedding products are extremely low.
Why do we certify products containing feather and down?
In the past, there was a general opinion that allergy to feathers was relatively common. However, research has established that this kind of allergy is quite rare. It is more common for people to be sensitive to dust mites on feathers, or to particular proteins that were produced by the bird before the feather was plucked.
However, the regulation in the feather and down industry now means that any feathers used in bedding are intensively cleaned, resulting in near removal of these allergens.
When we test feather and down products, we run all of the tests that are outlined above. In addition, we do particular tests for proteins and mites that can cause allergic reactions to feathers, and we also test to make sure that there is no mould or bacteria present.
Is a sheet a sufficient allergen barrier?
Unfortunately, no. We test and certify sheets, because they can be a useful part of allergen control in bedding, and because they are in direct contact with the skin. However, we would recommend also using a certified mattress protector.
What else do we certify?
We have 46 different asthma & allergy friendly® certification standards for products and services, addressing all areas of the indoor air environment. Some of these relate to products which remove allergens and dust from the indoor environment, like vacuum cleaners, air cleaners, dehumidifiers, and washing machines. Some of them relate to products where it is important not to provide an easy home for allergens and that it is possible to remove allergen from them – like bedding, toys, and flooring. And some of them relate to household products that should make as little an impact on the indoor environment as possible – like flooring and paint.
You can find out which products are certified asthma & allergy friendly® and read more here: www.asthmaandallergyfriendly.com
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