Traditional mattress covers are crafted to protect your crib mattress, but natural crib mattress covers also protect the environment — both in your baby's room and in the world at large — from the chemical residues, and petroleum-based plastics intrinsic to conventional mattress covers.
Find it! Natural crib mattress covers
A simple way to green your crib mattress cover is to look for one that replaces plastics and chemical treatments with organic wool, which is naturally waterproof and anti-microbial. Organic cotton is another great option.
Choosing natural crib mattress covers helps you go green because…
- Organic farming methods for cotton and wool production protect the air, water, and wildlife from chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and help combat global warming.
- Undyed or naturally dyed textiles avoid conventional petroleum-based dyes, opting instead for eco-friendly colorings that use less water and energy in the finishing process and do not create dangerous runoff for waterways.
- Crib mattress covers that have not been treated with chemical finishes do not create dangerous runoff, and the end product does not contain harmful chemicals that can irritate the skin and off-gas into the air we breathe.
Crib mattress covers are associated with all the same eco-perils as other baby bedding products, including the procurement of raw materials, the manufacture of the covers themselves, and the chemical treatments applied to the finished product, especially to make them waterproof. In the journey from manufacture to your baby's bed, there are eco-perils all along the way.
Mattress cover raw materials
Synthetic fiber crib mattress covers (such as polyester) and plastic crib liners are made from petrochemicals, which are non-renewable resources. Therefore, their manufacture contributes to the environmental hazards associated with petroleum procurement and processing, including disruption of land and ocean habitats, and pollution of air and water supplies.
Many mattress covers are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) for its waterproof characteristics. PVC — a soft plastic used commonly in consumer products — pose severe environmental risks throughout its life cycle. TThe manufacture of PVC creates pollution, threatening the health of both factory workers and the communities surrounding factory sites. When disposed of, PVC-stabilizing lead, plastic-softening phthalates, and other additives can find its way into the ground and drinking water supplies from landfills. > Ninety percent of the phthalates used today are used to make PVC, and lead levels in the environment have increased by 1,000 times in the past few hundred years.  Incineration of PVC products produces dioxin and furans, which are among the most toxic environmental contaminants and are known carcinogens.
Conventionally grown natural fibers, such as cotton and wool, have their own environmental impacts, most notably air, water, and ground pollution from pesticides, fertilizers, dyes, bleaches, and treatments. Untreated and organic fibers minimize some of these environmental costs because they are grown and processed with sustainable agricultural processes.
Chemical dyes and treatments
Bedding textiles endure multiple processing steps, including spinning, dyeing, weaving, scouring and sizing. > If they are made conventionally, several chemicals are used to remove all color before the fabric is redyed, like lead, mercury, and other heavy metals like cadmium.  The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes a number of dyes to be hazardous due to threat of groundwater contamination in the vicinity of manufacturing plants.  Alternatives include undyed mattress covers or those dyed with "low-impact" and "eco-friendly" dyes.
Throughout the manufacturing process, the fabric is flushed with water, which creates a potential for wastewater contaminated with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and bleach. Crib mattress covers that boast no dyes or bleaches, as well as plant- or water-derived dyes, are not subject to this chemical-intensive processing.
Crib mattress covers are often treated with chemical finishes to repel water and stains, or to make them fire-resistant. These finishes can off-gas formaldehyde. Additionally, their manufacture releases perfluorochemicals (PFCs) or dioxin, which may harm the environment or your body.
Related health issues
Contact with the chemicals used in textile dyeing can lead to dermatological and respiratory allergies. Although fiber-reactive dyes are believed to be gentler on the environment they contain sodium carbonate, which can aggrevate asthma symptoms.
Formaldehyde, when present in the air, can trigger watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat; nausea and other complaints.  The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) notes that formaldehyde can cause nasopharyngeal cancer (cancer of the nose and throat). Formaldehyde does not completely wash out in the laundry but the emissions can be reduced by about 60 percent.
PVC contains lead, which can cause developmental and learning problems and other well-known ailments. A study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that lead exposure may be linked to almost 300,000 cases of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children. PVC also contains phthalates, which can cause reproductive problems, premature birth, and other ailments.
- Introduction to Hormone Disrupting Compounds - Phthalates
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Indoor Air Quality: Basic Information - Organic Gases (Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
- formaldehyde: A flammable reactive gas belonging to the VOC (volatile organic compound) family of chemicals. It is widely used in personal care products, building materials, insulation, and home furnishings. Ingestion of the chemical can cause severe physical reactions, including coma, internal bleeding, and death.The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) considers it a probable human carcinogen.
- phthalates: A group of chemicals used as plasticisers in PVC plastics that are known to be testicular toxins and can disrupt hormones.
- polyvinyl chloride (PVC): A strong plastic polymer that can be made flexible through the use of plasticizers. These plasticizers, not the PVC itself, can be toxic and carcinogenic. However, the monomer used to make PVC, vinyl chloride, is carcinogenic, posing a serious health threat to the people who work at factories where PVC is created.
- volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Organic solvents that easily evaporate into the air. VOCs are emitted by thousands of products including paints, cleaning supplies, pesticides, building materials, and furnishings and they may cause immediate and long-term health problems.
- Fibersource - Acrylic Fiber
- US Energy Information Administration - Energy Kids Page: Petroleum (Oil) - A Fossil Fuel
- Illinois Attorney General - Madigan Announces Illinois Recall of Vinyl Baby Bibs Containing Lead
- A Toxic-Free Legacy Coalition Fact Sheet - Lead Cadmium Phthalates
- Center for Environmental Health - Target Agrees To Reduce Use of PVC, a "Poison Plastic"
- Center for Environmental Health - An Unnecessary Poison: Babies, Bibs, and Lead
- Ezine Articles - Make Yours An Organic And Eco Baby
- Madehow.com - Bed Sheet
- US Environmental Protection Agency - Federal Register: 40 CFR Parts 148, 261, 268, 271, and 302
- Grist - Ask Umbra: The Environmentalists' New Clothes - Advice on natural fabrics vs. polyester
- The Green Guide - The Eco-nomical Bedroom
- The Green Guide - Color By Nature
- Health & Safety Executive - Dyes and chemicals in textile finishing: An introduction
- National Safety Council - Formaldehyde
- International Agency for Research on Cancer - Press Release: IARC Classifies Formaldehyde as Carcinogenic to Humans
- California Environmental Protection Agency - Air Resources Board Research Notes: Indoor Emissions of Formaldehyde and Toluene Diisocyanate