Allergies and asthma arise from loss of the body's natural resistance to allergens, often beginning with early exposure to secondary smoke, industrial chemicals and asbestos, and the incredibly intensive chemical farming and industrial treatment, of the foods we eat, and fabrics we wear and sleep on.
Our ancestors did not suffer these maladies as pervasively as we do, because modern industry since WWII has chemically saturated everything: our homes, fabrics, foods, and air. For centuries, even as late as the 19th and early 20th centuries, organic cotton and natural woolens were taken for granted. What we now must label organic bedding, organic cotton and organic wool, were then simply called "blankets, sheets, cottons and woolens."
Petrochemical based foams often contain VOC's (volatile organic compounds), which emit, or "off gas" over time into the air. Formaldehyde, a probable carcinogenic VOC, identified by the US EPA as a dangerous indoor pollutant, is found in most furniture (foam, fabric), pressed-wood products (plywood, chipboard), carpet glues and fabrics, including conventional, non organic bedding.
Thus, your conventional mattress and sheets may be part of the problem. Replace them with a set of untreated organic cotton sheets (also called Green Cotton, or Brown Cotton). Now your body will at least rest on something bit a cleaner. Eventually, you should consider virgin wool-fill pillows, comforters and a mattress systems that use no petrochemicals. Replace foams and synthetics with organic wool, organic cotton or hemp. These natural fibers breathe better, and so do their owners.
Dust Mite Wars:
Doctors and organizations such as the United States EPA, and the American Lung Association, have identified dust mite allergens as the cause of asthma, coughing, congestion and other health problems, especially among children.
"...environmental control may be the single most important step to prevent the onset of acute asthma attacks.", writes Michael LeNoir, MD an Oakland California Adult Allergy Specialist.
Many synthetic materials, and chemically processed down, feathers, polyfills and foams, provide marvelous nesting opportunities for dust mites. Wool fill organic bedding, on the other hand, actually repels dust mites, but may not be as cheap to produce.
The stuffing in pillows and comforters can harbor dust mites, especially feathers and other supposed natural fillers. These materials tend to adsorb the moisture from your breath as you sleep, providing the perfect dust-mite habitat. Did you know you exhale around one pint of warm water vapor each night as you sleep? The perfect environment for dust mites!
Dust-mites are actually tiny spiders that live in bedrooms, mattresses, carpets, furniture and bedding. Invisible to the human eye, they often live on shed skin, which comprises approx. 80% of common house dust. Dust mites need shed skin, moisture and warmth to survive. Dust mites leave microscopic droppings, which when airborne and inhaled, cause allergic reactions in many people.
Until you can sensibly replace bedding with virgin wool-fill organic bedding and organic cotton fabrics, begin by washing your bedding in warm or hot water once or twice a week. (And watch out for phosphates in detergents!) You can also get serious, and place "barrier cloth" covers over your mattress and pillows, which do not allow mites into these items. Try to stay away from synthetics.
What's up with wool? Is it an allergen? Everybody thinks they are allergic to wool. Some are allergic to Lanolin, but most are not, and are reacting instead to the harsh chemicals usually applied to wool clothing and bedding.
The natural lanolin in wool repels dust-mites. Virgin wool is also a naturally resistant to water and odor. Most people find organic wool totally non-allergenic and softer than conventional wool, making it an ideal filler for bedding and pillows. Wool in organic bedding and pillows also breathes extremely well, keeping you cool in summer, warm in winter but never too hot!
Remember too, happy organically raised sheep are a sustainable natural resource, as long as we care for them.
Susan Fullen-Yurek is a freelance author and earth-friendly products entrepreneur with an e-commerce site, http://www.kushtush.com, featuring organic bedding with organically raised wool-fills, and organic cotton products. Information for portions of this article generously shared by David Sparrow, http://www.ahappyplanet.com. The link between health and environmental awareness marks a return to natural common sense, and a more healthful future.