You’re probably wondering why I’m discussing this particular topic; maybe you’re thinking it’s a bit too controversial for a health & wellness blog. However, I would like to discuss a non-political and lesser-known facet of the subject matter at hand…Petroleum. For the next three weeks I am going to be posting a three-part series on Petroleum and how it is related to our daily lives in unexpected ways. For some, its prevalence may be shocking, for others it may be common knowledge…in my opinion, all should be aware of the widespread predicament petroleum manufacturers have carelessly placed people in across the globe. In this way, hopefully we will be able to combat its presence in our own lives and spread the word so that other people can do the same. Let’s just dive right in, shall we? For Part One, I would like to discuss Bedding, a commercial product commonly found in practically every home worldwide.
When I first heard about this connection, I thought it ridiculous and laughed the entire notion off, thinking it was nothing more than some crazy person’s superstition that had clearly gotten out of hand. The truth is, it was easier to chalk it all up to “ridiculous” fiction rather than accepting it is as fact because then I’d actually have to do something about my current lifestyle! I’d need to consider the effect it could be having on my health, make changes where change is absolutely necessary, spend money (God forbid) on new bedding, and most of all, make more of an effort to read the ingredient labels of products beyond the food industry. Please don’t make the same mistake I did when I first heard this news, keep reading because it will only help you and your family to become more informed on the subject!
At this point, some of you may be thinking ‘How on earth could there be a connection between petroleum and bedding??’ A completely natural inquiry, might I remind you. Especially since most people are tricked into believing that petroleum is limited to the oil/fuel industry when, in actuality, petroleum derivatives extend into a multitude of other industries as well (including but not limited to Cosmetics, Textiles, and Food).
So, before I begin answering this question I would like to first shed a little light on what exactly “petroleum” contains and the not-so-stellar chemical makeup of this product. I feel as though a brief history is necessary in order to fully convey the truly appalling quality of certain mainstream products pertaining to the bedding industry.
For starters, “Petroleum is a general term for oil and natural gas. Oil and gas are important fossil fuels formed from the decomposition and pressurization of algae, plankton and other organisms. This process forms hydrocarbons, which are compounds consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon that are powerful combustible fuels. Individual deposits of oil and gas can also contain other compounds, but it is the hydrocarbons that make them valuable” (AAPEA).
According to Earth Science Week, “A typical 42-gallon barrel of crude oil yields about 20 gallons of gasoline and 4 gallons of jet fuel.” They go on to pose the question, “What products come from the other 18 gallons?” Well, the complete answer to this question would take a while to form due to the lengthiness of the list. So instead, here are just a few items to give you a well-rounded idea: Plastics, Ink, Paint, Bug Killer, Ammonia, Vaseline, Novelty Candy, and Crayons.
Reading this list is informative at first glance, but just plain scary at second glance! Companies rarely name the specific “petroleum” ingredients in their product(s), therefore, I can’t help but wonder if the same petroleum derivative found in Bug Killer (poison) & Ammonia (very toxic chemical) has also been used to make novelty candy. How can that be safe?! My guess is that it isn’t, but somehow manufacturers have slipped under the radar of organizations like the FDA (Food & Drug Administration) with their toxic products and without any concern for the health of their customers. Sadly, this has become the norm for many companies and is part of the reason why Petroleum is now in random products such as bedding!
Lastly, I would like to remind every reader of the carcinogenic (cancer causing) qualities of petroleum. “Gasoline contains large numbers of dangerous and cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene, butadiene, toluene, ethylbenzene, yxlene, trimethyl pentane, methyltertbutylether (MTBE) and many others. For the U.S. alone approximately 140 billion gallons of gasoline were consumed in 1989. An increase in only ten cents per gallon in price of gasoline generates 14 billion dollars in extra profit per year for the oil industry cartel. Laboratory animals exposed to gasoline developed cancers in different tissues and organs. A number of epidemiological studies in humans provide evidence of increased cancer risk of leukemia, kidney, liver, brain, lymphosarcoma, lymphatic tissue pancreas and other tissues and organs” (Mehlman MA / Teratog Carcinog Mutagen). All petroleum products come from the same source, therefore, Petroleum, whether in the form of gasoline or as a highly processed derivative, should be avoided whenever possible.
So, after reading these quite disgusting details on petroleum does it make you want to double-check those sheets and blankets currently covering that mattress of yours? I hope so! My current dilemma with the companies selling these types of bedding products is the burning questions of HOW exactly did an ingredient made from petrol end up on the label for blankets??? Sure, it may save them money in the long run, but at what cost to human life?
Consider this: if the average person gets around 7-8 hours of sleep every night, that allows 7-8 hours of skin to product contact with whatever blankets, sheets, or bedspreads he or she happens to be using.
Now consider this: The skin happens to be the largest organ in the body and easily absorbs both toxins and nutrients through the pores. Obviously, this is a good thing when we want to feed our body nutrients, but it becomes quite the issue when toxins are involved because like any other organ, the skin has a specific duty to perform in order to keep the body in tip-top shape. In this case, the skin disperses said ingredients throughout the body, into the digestive tract where it can be determined as useful or harmful, and then toward the appropriate organ.
Unfortunately, coming in contact with some amount of toxins already happens to be an inescapable part of daily life due to natural (and slightly uncontrollable) causes (such as air pollution, for example), therefore, we might as well try to reduce pollution in the areas of our lives that we can control. This is when bedding comes into the picture. We can control the quality of blankets and sheets we expose ourselves to and whether or not our systems are absorbing toxins or nutrients.
Truth be told, our bodies come in contact with too many toxins as it is, therefore, adding to this toxin exposure does not improve our chances of winning the fight against a toxic environment! We win when we surround ourselves by beneficial products!
So, let’s talk about how to do this.
First of all, if these companies can turn petrol products into bedding materials than I’m sure they are creative enough to figure out a healthy alternative that could actually benefit human life! Can I get an amen?!
Of course, presenting companies with an idea like this is comparable to talking to a brick wall, but I hope for my readers it will come across as a rare look inside the honeycomb. Seeing the inner-workings of what seems like such an innocent product will hopefully prompt change amongst the families currently using what are actually really very harmful products.
In our world today, we hear about many children developing learning disabilities and too many people, in general, becoming deathly ill at every age. Cancer is a word that has become much too common in the everyday vocabulary of people worldwide.
The current definition of “Toxin” (as found in Webster’s Dictionary) is “an antigenic poison or venom of plant or animal origin, especially one produced by or derived from microorganisms and causing disease when present at low concentration in the body.”
Petroleum products are, in my opinion, toxins. At this point, I think the only question we need to be asking ourselves is, “Do we want to purposefully, knowingly, and intentionally expose ourselves to toxins for 7-8 hours on a daily basis by using bedding containing petroleum derived ingredients?”
Based on the fact that healthy lifestyle choices are a growing trend (just look at the expansion of organic products now found in your average grocery store), I’m going to assume that the majority of the population would answer “No” to this question. Which is fantastic! But, how do you become truly healthy when companies make it practically impossible to know the truth behind their products?
For me, personally, it has become all about digging as deep as I can go with a product because, thanks to the internet, there are people trying to find out the exact same answers as me! And there are even more helping to clear up these kinds of questions all together by sharing the answers they have found. There are some who might respond to my avid research with a snarky remark like “Curiosity killed the cat,” not-so-subtly hinting at the notion that I’m over-stepping my right as a consumer…Umm, what?! As the consumer, I think I have the right to know what exactly a product contains before I spend MY money on it! In all honestly, if I’m not curious then my cat might die anyway from sleeping on the toxic bedding products! Trust me when I say this isn’t taking a famous mantra too literally…
I’m very sorry to inform my readers that the bedding most often containing petroleum-derived ingredients (Or, as my Mom likes to call it, “Sludge”) are the super soft and fuzzy blankets. You know, the warm, cozy ones that can turn even the most active human being into a Grade A couch potato? I believe the technical term is “Fleece.”
By digging a little deeper into the chemical makeup of fleece blankets, one will discover two main types: Synthetic Fleece and Cotton Fleece. While both can be bad if you do not purchase Organic Cotton Fleece, Synthetic Fleece is the worse choice of the two.
Essentially, Synthetic Fleece is exactly what it claims to be: synthetic, fake, artificial, faux. It is made to look, feel, and act like real, natural fleece, but what lies beneath the surface is actually a collection of imposter ingredients, one being petroleum.
***Side Note: I would like to think that petroleum derivatives began being used in an attempt to be more efficient with leftover ingredients that really should be thrown away in some special dump area covered with those bright orange “Warning! Hazardous!” signs (kind of like an insane recycling attempt gone-wrong), but I just can’t ignore those nagging suspicions in the back of my mind, causing me to see it more as an irresponsible scheme that increases paychecks for CEOs of large corporations and leaves us, the consumer, with the short end of the stick. Food for thought…
The truth is, synthetic fabrics have been in use for quite a while and actually date way back before the 21st century (“How Products are Made” // madehow.com). Is the word ‘Polyester’ familiar to any of my readers??? Personally, whenever I hear this word I am instantly reminded of those perfectly creased, brightly colored pants my Grandma used to wear. I never knew one style of pants could come in so many different colors!
The last thing I think of is petroleum, but without fail it manages to pop up here, as well. “Polyester is made by reacting terephthalic acid, a petroleum derivative, with ethylene glycol, another petroleum derivative (commonly known as anti-freeze). When the two chemicals are combined at a very high temperature, they form a new chemical known as a polymer” (How Products are Made, madehow.com). It is still commonly found in a variety of clothing products, but back in the 1940s when it was first created (madehow.com), Polyester was a dream come true to people world-wide. My own Great-Grandmother called it “the greatest invention the world has ever seen” because it refused to wrinkle when washed and dried. Little did she know it was actually laced with both toxic and harmful ingredients!
Fast forward to the 1980s when interest in recycling plastics had sky-rocketed…everyone wanted a piece of this action (clearly it was before BPAs had come onto the scene), including the Polyester Manufacturers! They were already using petroleum-derived ingredients, why not throw some plastic into the mix? And that is exactly what they did! With recycled soda bottles.
As it turns out, the afore mentioned chemical compound called polymers (crucial in the production of polyester), can also be turned into polymer fibers when adding recycled plastic bottles. What we end up with is a thick syrup substance that is currently used to create polyester, polyester fleece garments, and new plastic bottle products! (For more details on this process please visit the How Products are Made website, link available below in the “Sources” section).
Although the production process for each of these products is absolutely horrendous, I’m focusing on bedding in this article, therefore, I would like to take a moment to review just how bad synthetic fleece blankets truly are.
Right off the bat we have a 100% man-made item on our hands that not only contain petroleum-derivatives from the polyester, but incorporates recycled plastic materials into its foundation, as well.
Do we know if the plastics being used contain BPAs? How about if (whether or not) the previous products housed in these recycled plastic containers were Organic? For argument’s sake, let’s say they were not Organic because then we have to consider if the recycled plastics were properly cleaned before they were used again. Especially if the second product happens to be Organic, no one paying for an Organic product wants leftover pesticides contaminating it.
Research has found that recycled plastic containers do contain a certain percentage of the previous product housed due to absorption of the production into the makeup of the plastic container itself. So many questions, so few answers. What we do know is that petroleum derivitives and plastics (therefore, BPAs) do exist in much of the bedding currently being sold, today.
When I’m shopping for new sheets, blankets, or other bedding necessities, I have found it best to avoid polyester and fleece no matter what! I try to stick to the basics and choose products I know to be good quality. 100% Organic Cotton is always your best option. So, at the end of this article I will share a few of my favorite companies and a few I prefer to avoid.
Before I learned this tragic fact, the cabinet in my own living room used to be full of these types of blankets! My bed even used to have one in between the sheet and the duvet. To me, no bed seemed complete without a super fuzzy blanket! Isn’t that terrible?! I was blinded by appearance; I never stopped to consider exactly what went in to making this specific set of sheets or that particular bedspread. My first mistake was automatically assuming that everything is probably “good enough” since it’s being sold in a legitimate store.
Naivety took over and made me picture these blankets coming from sheep hair. I don’t know what made me make such a crazy assumption. I guess it just seemed really simple to shave a sheep (in a humane way, of course) and use it’s hair for something like a soft blanket. Boy was I wrong!
Maybe this is how soft blankets are made in a Disney fairytale (woodland creatures do seem to appear in great quantities so it wouldn’t be that crazy of a notion), but unfortunately our world has found petroleum to be more procurable. Consequentially, here we are, with sludge blankets to cuddle up with.
Although things have taken a depressing turn, I’m very happy to inform all of my readers that this is NOT the end of my story and a happy ending does exist for those of us interested in eliminating the toxic bedding from our households!
It is called Organic Cotton and it has been used to create 100% Organic Cotton sheets, blankets, duvets, and pillows! Not only is it derived from organically grown cotton plants, but the products made contain 0% petroleum, as well! Amazing, right?
Make sure you’re careful to buy only 100% Organic Cotton bedding because products not grown organically will be full of pesticides, hormones, and who knows what else!
I have found a few manufacturers that are reliable when it comes to the quality of their products. I will share this list shortly. First, please know that I am in no way linked to these companies nor do I receive any kind of compensation for mentioning them. The list you see below is comprised only of companies that sell products of the utmost quality. I have thoroughly researched each company and I even own a few blankets from two of the mentioned companies, Magnolia Organics and Glo-Organics. Needless to say, I am very happy with my purchase!
When it comes to the blankets on my bed, I am very particular….maybe it’s just me, but during the winter I need more than sheets and a comforter to keep me warm! If any of my readers happen to share this preference, I recommend Coyuchi’s “The Organic Bed” collection. Their organic cotton woven blankets are perfect for layering on your bed. They do the job perfectly without being too heavy. Plus, they offer organic flannel sheets, which I absolutely LOVE during winter! Switching to Organic bedding does NOT mean you have to sacrifice comfort!
You will have to spend a little more for any Organic bedding product available on the market, today. I know this is a huge bummer, but you will save money in the long-run by switching to Organic sheets, blankets, and mattresses. You save money on medical bills when you’re no longer exposing yourself and your families to toxic ingredients. You also save yourself a lot of emotional stress and heartache dealing with the suffering linked with sickness, whether it be you or a loved one! So, going Organic can be thought of as a pro-health/longevity protocol of sorts. The good thing is that you don’t have to “Go Organic” all at once. Making the change gradually is also fantastic for your future health! As long as you’re decreasing your toxin exposure, you’re making positive changes within your household! Kick-start this change by checking out the companies listed below!
Coyuchi (Blankets, Sheets, Duvets, Pillows, Comforters, Mattresses, Mattress Pads)
Magnolia Organics (Bedding, Nursery, Towels)
The Company Store (Bedding, Towels)
Glo-Organics (Bedding, Nursery, Mattresses, Clothing)
Garnet Hill (visit their Organic Store for a variety of bedding products)
Pottery Barn (“Down Blend” insert and flame retardant-free options for furniture)
For more Organic recommendations, check out Apartment Therapy’s articles, “The 10 Best Organic Bedding Sources” and “The 10 Best All-Natural and Organic Mattress Sources.”
I hope these suggestions have been helpful to all of my readers! Also, If you know of any 100% Organic Cotton bedding companies that I failed to mention please share by commenting below! I know I would appreciate it and I’m sure your fellow readers will, as well!
How Products Are Made: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-4/Polyester-Fleece.html
Coyuchi Blog: https://www.coyuchi.com/the-naturalista/bedding_basics/
Organic Cotton Plus: http://organiccottonplus.com
Webster’s Dictionary: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/toxin
APPEA/The Voice of Australia’s Oil and Gas Industry: https://www.appea.com.au/oil-gas-explained/oil-and-gas/what-is-petroleum/
Earth Science Week: http://www.earthsciweek.org/classroom-activities/products-made-petroleum
Mehlman MA/Carcinogenic Qualities: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1981951
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