An Avocado mattress that's certified to have fewer harmful chemicals
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You know that chemical smell you sometimes get with a new mattress when you pierce the plastic wrapping?

That’s due to volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that are in the solvents used in the manufacturing process. And they’re bad news for you as well as the environment.

VOCs are linked to respiratory illnesses and memory impairment, and they contribute to pollution in the form of ozone and smog, according to the National Institutes of Health. 

While these compounds can dissipate if you allow your mattress to air out before you sleep on it, you can also buy a mattress that already has low or no VOCs by checking if they’re certified for one or both. But not just any certification will do.

“When it comes to low- or no-VOC certifications, you can't say ‘the more the better,’ because some manufacturers will just get a bunch of certifications that really don't mean much in order to give the impression they're doing a lot,” says Charlotte Vallaeys, Consumer Reports' senior policy analyst who assesses mattress labeling for health and sustainability. 

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For instance, a CertiPUR certification means that chemicals such as flame retardant were not used for the polyurethane that’s in a mattress, but it doesn't cover any other materials.

And a GreenGuard certification does not guarantee that no VOCs were used to make a mattress, only that a mattress has low VOC emissions. And don’t be fooled by a “natural” label on a mattress—there’s no official certification for what natural means.

So what are the certifications you should look for if you want a low- or no-VOC mattress? One reliable one is the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which ensures that the mattress is made of 95 percent organic material and that no chemical flame retardants and polyurethane were used to make the mattress.

For latex mattresses, the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) ensures that the latex used is 95 percent organic and no chemical retardants or polyurethane was used. You can read more about mattress certifications in our guide to organic mattress labels.

CR members can read on for the details on four mattresses from our tests that perform well and have either or both GOTS or GOLS certifications. For more on mattresses, see our mattress buying guide and mattress ratings.

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