For anyone with a beloved furry friend, we all know just how much our pets feel like members of our family. Many of us are vigilant about various aspects of our pet’s health such as their food, exercise and supplements, but perhaps we haven’t considered the ways our pets may be exposed to toxicants in our own homes.
The Health Concerns Just as harmful substances are found in many human mattresses and beds, similar harmful substances are common in pet beds. In truth, a nontoxic bed for your pet matters to all the members of your family as it not only affects your pet—it affects you and everyone else in your home, including children. By knowing some of the potentially harmful things to look out for, you can find options that safeguard the health of not only your pet, but your whole family.
Some chemicals of concern that commonly show up in pet beds are:
- Flame retardants
Found in polyurethane foam (or memory foam), which is commonly used as the cushion part of many pet beds. Flame retardants, such as organophosphorus and halogenated flame retardants, are added to the foam because the materials are derived from fossil fuels and are, therefore, highly flammable and burn rapidly. The specific harmful impacts vary based upon the variety, but some flame retardants have been associated with fertility issues, endocrine disruption, lower IQ, hyperactivity, thyroid dysfunction, and cancer.
Finally, the efficacy of flame retardants has been a subject of debate, with some claiming that flame retardants do not provide a substantial enough increase in time to exit a burning building in order to justify the widespread use of this harmful group of chemicals. Once on fire, products containing flame retardants may release high levels of toxic chemicals into the smoke, thus creating an additional occupational hazard for firefighters. It is also worth noting that, when used properly, natural materials like wool and cotton can meet national flammability standards without the use of chemical flame retardants.
- Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
PFAS are a group of thousands of substances utilized for their ability to repel liquid and, therefore, stains. This group of chemicals has been associated with numerous detrimental effects including cancer and endocrine disruption. They are also considered persistent pollutants, meaning that they do not break down in the environment and stick around indefinitely. These ubiquitous “forever chemicals” have also been known to build up in the human body, as a 2007 study found PFOA (a type of PFAS chemical) in the blood of 99.7 percent of Americans.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Volatile organic compounds or VOCs, as they are commonly called, are chemicals – natural or synthetic – that can easily become a gas. The flame retardant chemicals mentioned above can contain VOCs. These gaseous VOCs are typically invisible to the naked eye and are incredibly common in indoor environments. VOCs can be emitted from polyurethane foam in mattresses and other furniture like pet beds. The concerns with VOCs are broad due to this large class of chemicals, but common harmful impacts include mucous membrane irritation, headaches, loss of coordination, liver damage, kidney damage, central nervous system damage, and cancer.
Tips for Choosing Better Pet BedsThis may sound overwhelming, but you might be surprised at how easy it can be to find better pet bed options simply by shopping smarter. Our number one tip for finding safer pet beds is to shop the MADE SAFE seal to ensure the product has been fully vetted for substances known or suspected to cause human and ecosystem harm. By shopping MADE SAFE certified products, you can easily find products that simultaneously address all the concerns outlined in this article.
- Shop for MADE SAFE certified pet beds.
- Look for pet beds made with natural materials such as organic cotton, hemp or linen fibers.
- Bypass beds made with polyurethane foam or memory foam, which are petroleum-derived products and are not sustainable.
- Shop for bedding options that forgo unnecessary chemical flame retardant treatments. An easy way to do this is to choose natural cushioning materials like latex instead of polyurethane foam, which is a common source of VOCs and is almost always treated with flame retardant chemicals.
- Avoid pet beds and bed covers that may have been treated with PFAS or other toxic chemicals by steering clear of claims like “no wrinkle” or “stain resistant.” Instead, opt for natural fibers with washable covers.