Learn about the potential risks of forever chemicals and why choosing a mattress that’s been tested for PFAS is crucial for a healthier sleep environment.

The bedroom is a place of respite, retreat, and calm. After all, we spend up to nine hours a day — roughly a third of our lives — asleep. But news that harmful “forever chemicals,” or PFAS are found in commonly used mattress materials is enough to lose sleep over. 

Consumers deserve the peace of mind that the beds their family sleeps on are made with safe, non-toxic materials. That’s why Avocado rigorously tests its GOTS-certified organic mattresses to ensure its adult, kids, and crib beds contain no detectable levels of PFAS (Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances). 

Here’s everything you need to know about PFAS and how (and why) to keep them out of the bedroom. 

 

What are PFAS?

PFAS are a group of more than 4,000 synthetic compounds used in consumer goods and industrial processing. Aptly named, some forever chemicals take hundreds even thousands of years to break down. 

First introduced in the 1940s, this class of chemicals became popular due to their ability to resist heat, water, and grease. This quality is why PFAS are found in everything from non-stick cookware and food packaging to mattresses, waterproof outdoor gear, yoga pants, stain-repellent carpets and fabrics, and fire-fighting foams. 

Two types of PFAS exist, long-chain and short-chain, and refer to the number of carbon atoms in each molecule. Today, most manufacturers have phased out long-chain compounds, particularly toxic versions like the PFOA used in toxic Teflon pans, whose health risks have been more thoroughly studied. However, short-chain variants are still widely used. 

sisters on avocado organic kids mattress

Photo courtesy of Avocado Green.

Read more: 7 Ways to Avoid Microplastics In Your Home

 

What Are the Health and Environmental Risks of PFAS Exposure?

Due to the persistent nature and pervasive use of PFAS, these compounds are found in our water, food, and soil, and in humans and animals. Only a handful of the more than 4,000 forever chemicals have been studied. However, according to the EPA, exposure to certain PFAS and bioaccumulation in the body is linked to myriad health issues, including decreased fertility and high blood pressure in pregnant women, developmental effects in children, increased risk of testicular, kidney, and prostate cancers, reduced immune response, hormonal imbalance, and increased cholesterol levels and risk of obesity.  

Forever chemicals also pose a threat to wildlife, particularly endangered species, because of their link to tumors, lower reproductive success in birds, and liver, kidney, and immunological effects in laboratory animals. In animals, PFAS biomagnify or increase in concentrations up the food chain, putting humans at further risk when consuming fish and other animals. A 2023 study by the Environmental Working Group found 120 unique PFAS compounds in 625 animal species.

Exposure to forever chemicals typically occurs through inhalation or ingestion. Most people come into contact with PFAS by using (or sleeping on) products and packaging treated with these chemicals and by consuming food and water that contain them. And while the use of the most toxic of these chemicals — PFOS and PFOA — has been discontinued, and banned in the case of food-contact packaging, little is known about the health risks of the majority of these substances

For example, because of the belief that the shorter the carbon chain, the shorter the half-life, short-chain PFAS were initially thought to be less toxic and persistent than their long-chain predecessor. But scientists have found this new generation of compounds are just as pervasive, are harder to remove from water systems, and accumulate in the body more rapidly than previously thought.   

 

What’s Being Done?

In the past year, the EPA took steps to address PFAS, mitigate exposure, and fund additional research. In April 2024, the government agency designated, PFOA and PFOS, two compounds that were widely used by manufacturers in the past, as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; issued the first national, legally enforceable drinking water standard to protect communities from exposure; and released updated interim guidance on the destruction and disposal of PFAS-containing materials.

In January 2024, the EPA finalized a rule that prevents companies from starting or resuming the manufacture or processing of 329 PFAS that have not been made or used for many years without a complete EPA review and risk determination. The organization also added seven variants to the list of chemicals covered by the Toxics Release Inventory.

States are stepping up, too. Eight states, including California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, and Washington have adopted restrictions on PFAS in carpets, rugs, and aftermarket treatments. A handful of states also introduced bills in 2024 that aims to ban intentionally added PFAS from children’s products (including kids mattresses) by 2025, with several banning the use of the compounds in all mattresses by 2032.

toddler standing on avocado organic crib mattress

Photo courtesy of Avocado Green.

How do PFAS End Up in Mattresses?

Forever chemicals are often used in water-resistant and stain-resistant treatments on adult and crib mattresses. Many big-name brands also utilize polyurethane and memory foams), chemical flame retardants, and adhesives in their mattresses — all of which are treated or processed using toxic PFAS. According to a 2022 study, the skin can absorb this class of chemicals, so if they’re in your mattress, you’re likely exposed to them each night when you go to bed. 

Avocado mattresses never include these materials or chemicals. Instead of synthetic polyurethane foams, we use natural, renewable GOLS-certified organic latex that we responsibly source from co-owned farms in India and Guatemala. Our mattresses are also crafted with ethically sourced, GOTS-certified organic wool, a moisture-wicking material that’s naturally fire resistant. 

Read more: What You Need to Know About Natural Latex

avocado mattress layers and materials

Photos courtesy of Avocado Green.

How to Keep PFAs Out of The Bedroom

Whether or not the state you live in bans PFAS in mattresses, here are a few easy ways to keep these toxic chemicals out of the bedroom. 

Do your research. Before investing in a new mattress for you or your family, do some fact-finding to make sure the bed you’re buying isn’t made with synthetic polyurethane foams, chemical flame retardants, or toxic adhesives. 

Get rid of older beds. Older beds are more likely to contain materials that were processed with or include PFAS. When in doubt, swap out an older mattress for a new one you are sure is free of forever chemicals. 

Skip anything labeled “stain repellent”. Some mattresses and mattress protectors, particularly those for kids and cribs include stain fighting additives that contain PFAS. For peace of mind, avoid products with this label. 

Look for trusted certifications. Always look for trusted, industry recognized certifications to ensure your mattress is PFAS-free. Avocado’s mattresses are made with GOTS-certified organic materials, are MADESAFE® certified — certification screens for more than 6,500 harmful substances and prohibits flame retardants and fiberglass — and OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100, a label that means that every component of our organic mattress has been lab-tested for harmful levels of toxic substances. Avocado has also put its mattresses through comprehensive testing for PFAS in their products. 

couple on avocado eco organic mattress

Photo courtesy of Avocado Green.

Read more: The Mattress Certifications You Need to Know

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