Are you looking for safe bedding essentials like sheets, comforters, and mattress pad covers that are free from toxic PFAS “forever chemicals?” Per- and polyfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) are a class of chemicals linked to serious health effects like cancer and immune dysfunction and are considered ubiquitous in commerce. Friends of Mamavation at Toxic-Free Future tested bedding products from major retailers, and we are reporting what they found in the bedding aisle. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best organic mattresses, best cookware sans PFAS, and best green beauty makeup, now join us for an investigation on the best non-toxic high-quality bedding.
Disclosure: This post was medically reviewed by Sondra Strand, RN, BSN, PHN. This post also contains affiliate links.
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Bedding May Contain Toxic Chemicals Like PFAS “Forever Chemicals”
Whether you are purchasing linens or linen sheets, flat sheets, top sheets, quilts, luxury bedding, pillowcases, or duvet covers, there are many problematic chemicals used in the manufacturing of textiles.
One example of such problematic chemicals is PFAS chemicals, which are toxic, ubiquitous, and persistent in the environment. Many PFAS chemicals are used in the production of textiles to create wrinkle resistance & stain resistance and can either find their way into the final product at detectable levels.
Either way, this poses a problem to public health because even if you are not being impacted by those toxic chemicals directly today, they will find their way into the environment via wildlife, food, soil, and drinking water and you will be impacted later. Therefore, not only is it a good idea to avoid PFAS as much as possible, but it’s also a good idea to get behind NGOs and movements, like Safer States, that are attempting to ban and restrict them in states across the country.
Persistent PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Used in Textile Manufacturing Pollute The Planet
The biggest problem with using PFAS chemicals to treat textiles is their persistence, meaning PFAS sticks around forever, which is why they are referred to as “forever chemicals.” Not only are we exposed as consumers but the surrounding ecosystem (wildlife, drinking water, & soil) are also exposed, which later exposes the surrounding community. Then add in the fact that these chemicals are increasing in number, with upwards to 9,200+ in existence, and can be found in humans, fish, & polar bears, this has become a recipe for disaster. Here are some additional considerations:
- Exposure increases with sun & heat: PFAS treated textiles may increase exposure to humans with heat or sunlight exposure. Sun exposure can stimulate and draw out other types of PFAS chemicals present in the textile and expose consumers. One study looked at infant car seats treated with PFAS surface treatments and found more PFHxA and PFOA leaching into the environment of the car from the textiles. They also found PFAS inside the sweat of those infant car seats, which leads them to believe they found a potential dermal exposure route.
- PFAS pollutes workers & the surrounding community: The process of applying PFAS chemicals to textiles, like sports bras, is dirty. Manufacturers use PFAS chemical treatments to immerse the fabrics in a solution, then equipment to roll out the excess liquid & then finally cure them with heat. This, in turn, makes textile manufacturers hotspots for contaminated wastewater and emissions of volatile PFAS into the air. One study in China found that exposure to workers at the factory was 100,000 times greater than what the general Western population was exposed to based on how it got into the indoor air and into the environment.
- Landfills leach PFAS into the environment: When you are done with your sports bra, you may end up throwing it out. At that point, it’s also pollution. Because some textiles made with PFAS treatments are sent to the landfill, that is where they refuse to break down and become part of the soil and groundwater and could be found in wildlife nearby.
- PFAS treated textiles pollute the drinking water during Laundering: Over time, textiles that are laundered can release PFAS into the laundry and then into the environment. This study looked at infant apparel and one finding was how much was left behind after several washes. It’s clear that over time, PFAS treatments will come out in the laundry.
Toxic PFAS “Forever Chemicals” Found in Bedding, Mattress Covers, & Comforters by Toxic-Free Future
Toxic-Free Future commissioned a study looking at different textiles like mattress toppers, sheets, comforters, tablecloths, napkins, and outer gear like jackets. These products were all sold at popular retailers like Amazon, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Kohl’s, Costco, Dick’s Sporting Goods, REI, TJX, & Walmart. In this study, they were trying to ascertain and identify what types of PFAS chemicals were being used with different textile products that were advertised as stain or water-resistant. They ended up selecting 20 products of bedding, 20 products of tablecloths & napkins, and 20 products of the outer gear to send to the lab.
The methods they used were two-fold. First, they screened for total fluorine (just like us), and then identified which products had over 100 parts per million of total fluorine for additional testing. For the second part, the products that had over 100 ppm of total fluorine were then sent for additional screening to have those PFAS compounds identified. Just note, there are a limited amount of compounds that can be identified this way, so some results demonstrated that, but here were their main findings:
- PFAS are commonly used for stain and water resistance. 72% of what was advertised as stain or water-resistant contained PFAS.
- Multiple types of consumer products contained PFAS, including rain jackets, hiking pants, shirts, mattress pads, comforters, tablecloths, and napkins.
- No retailer’s product line was totally PFAS-free. In other words, they found at least one product from each retail location that had PFAS.
- Manufacturers have been using a mixture of PFAS that includes compounds that are banned in other countries. Major manufacturers have claimed the industry has phased out long-chain PFAS chemicals and are now only using short-chain PFAS chemicals. This study found that not to be true. In fact, some of the PFAS chemicals banned in Europe were found about 74% of the time!
- Alternatives to PFAS for stain and water resistance are already in use. They did find items that were claiming to be water and stain resistant that did not contain PFAS.
Bottom line, whether you are buying flannel sheets, percale sheets, or cotton sheets, stay away from brands that are advertising their product as wrinkle or stain-free.
Mamavation’s Investigation on Bedding
Mamavation took the raw data and findings from Toxic-Free Future latest study Toxic Convenience: The hidden costs of forever chemicals in stain- and water-resistant products and divided it into three categories: Not Our Favorite, Better, & Best. The Not Our Favorite category represents products that were found to have any detectable total fluorine. The Better category represents products that did not have any detectable total fluorine. Because the study did not screen any GOTS-certified products, we pulled those products into the third category of “Best” for our audience to choose from. GOTS Organic (which is a certification that prohibits PFAS chemicals in manufacturing) was selected as the most sustainable option for consumers.
Not Our Favorite Bedding
This category of bedding was sent to an independent third-party laboratory to test for total fluorine. We put anything with detectable results in this category. The products range from 11 ppm to 1221 parts per million total fluorine. Later products over 100 ppm total fluorine were sent to the lab to identify which compounds were in the product.
- Beautyrest (from Costco) Black Total Protection Mattress Pad — 807 parts per million (ppm) total fluorine
- Bed Gear (from Target) Hyper Cotton Sheet Set — 17 parts per million (ppm) total fluorine
- Cottonloft (from Macy’s) StayClean Cotton Water and Stain Resistant Fiberbed Protector Set — 1314 parts per million (ppm) total fluorine
- Down Home Dupont Sorona (from Kohl’s) Mattress Pad — 537 parts per million (ppm) total fluorine
- Epoch Hometex Sleep Ease (from Kohl’s) 400 Thread Count Comforter — 361 parts per million (ppm) total fluorine
- Epoch Hometex Sleep Ease (from Walmart) Nano Fiber Comforter — 183 parter per million (ppm) total fluorine
- Fresh Ideas (from Amazon) Cotton Rich Pillow Protector — 393 parts per million (ppm) total fluorine
- Joovy Room (from Bed Bath & Beyond) Waterproof Fitted Sheet — 11 parts per million (ppm) total fluorine
- Madison Park (from Target) Down Alternative Comforter Set — 109 parts per million (ppm) total fluorine
- Madison Park (from Bed Bath & Beyond) Sheet Set — 42 parts per million (ppm) total fluorine
- Real Simple (from Bed Bath & Beyond) Fresh and Clean Fiberbed — 1221 parts per million (ppm) total fluorine
- Sertapedic (from Walmart) Crib Mattress Pad Cover — 120 parts per million (ppm) total fluorine
These bedding products were independently tested and found to have no detectable fluorine above 10 parts per million (ppm), which is how low the test was able to identify compounds. However, these products are not GOTS organic, so they could be using other problematic chemicals in processing their textiles that were not tested for.
- AmazonBasics Lightweight Super Soft Easy Care Microfiber Bed Sheet Set — non-detect
- Martha Stewart Collection (from Macy’s) Solid Open Stock 400 Thread Count Sheet Collection — non-detect
- Panda Baby (from Bed Bath & Beyond) Rayon Viscose Crib Sheet — non-detect
- Peak Performance (from Bed Bath & Beyond) Knitted Microfleece Sheet set — non-detect
- Sealy (from TJX) Cool & Clean Sheet Set — non-detect
- Sleep Philosophy (from Macy’s) Sofabed Mattress Pad — non-detect
- Therapedic (from Bed Bath & Beyond) Mattress Pad — non-detect
- The Big One (from Kohl’s) Essential Mattress Pad — non-detect
These brands have GOTS organic bedding products. The GOTS textile certification prohibits the use of PFAS chemicals in the manufacturing of their bedding products. These products were not tested by Mamavation or Toxic-Free Future, but Mamavation plans on verifying most of them for you in the near future.
- Avocado (GOTS Organic products only)– 10% off your Avocado purchases with code MAMAVATION at checkout through 2/10/22.
- Brentwood Homes (GOTS Organic Cotton Sheets Only)– 10% off your Brentwood Home purchases with code MAMAVATION at checkout through 2/10/22.
- Boll & Branch (GOTS-certified products only)
- Coyuchi (GOTS-certified products only)
- Delilah Home — Use discount code “Mama20” for 20% off and free shipping on $100.00 orders
- Get Pact Organic — 20% off your first purchase of Wear Pact Organic when you use “MAMAVATION20” at checkout.
- Happsy — 10% off your Happsy purchases with code MAMAVATION10 at checkout.
- Looma (GOTS-certified products only)
- Naturepedic — 15% off your Naturepedic total purchase with code MAMAVATION15. While supplies last. Cannot be used with other promo codes. Cannot be applied to past purchases. Valid one time per customer. Other restrictions may apply.
- SOL Organics (GOTS-certified products only)
- The Citizenry (GOTS-certified products only)
- Under the Canopy (GOTS-certified products only)
- West Elm (GOTS-certified products only)