Sleeping Organic strives to practice transparent, sustainable and environmentally conscientious business and manufacturing practices. We aim to use 100% organic wool when available for our wool mattress toppers and other wool mattress products because it’s free of potential harsh chemicals, ethical, environmentally friendly and sustainable.
Sleeping Organic aims to manufacture with certified organic wool components when available. However, due to shortages in supply from time to time, Sleeping Organic frequently has to source other organic and natural wool that is not labeled a certified organic wool component.
The organic wool process starts with taking care of the sheep and ends with taking care of you. Wool is an unequivocally comfortable textile that is also a natural insulator. It helps you sleep warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Wool doesn’t develop hot or cold spots so you’ll toss and turn less and sleep more. Wool is also naturally coated in a protein called lanolin that helps repel dust mites. Finally, wool is inherently flame resistant, and prevents the need for chemical flame retardant additives and other harsh chemicals.[toc]
What is Organic Wool?
Wool is a natural textile made from the fleece of sheep. According to the Organic Trade Association, wool can only be certified organic if its production meets federal standards. Federal requirements for organic livestock production include:
- Livestock feed and forage used from the last third of gestation must be certified organic;
- Use of synthetic hormones and genetic engineering is prohibited;
- Use of synthetic pesticides (internal, external, and on pastures) is prohibited, and
- Producers must encourage livestock health through good cultural and management practices.
How Do Organic and Non-Organic Livestock Management Differ?
The Organic Trade Association holds that organic livestock management is different from non-organic management in at least two major ways:
- Sheep cannot be dipped in parasiticides (insecticides) to control external parasites such as ticks and lice. Instead, organic farmers use clean pasture management and a healthy diet to control parasites without the use of chemicals. Organic grazing techniques minimizes the stress on animals and keeps their immune system functioning at a higher level.
- Organic livestock producers are required to ensure that they do not exceed the natural carrying capacity of the land on which their animals graze. This prevents the devastating effects of overgrazing and ensures a viable and sustainable business practice.
|Benefits of Organic Wool||Hazards of Conventional Wool|
|Free of Harsh Chemicals||Contains Harsh Chemicals|
|Naturally Flame Resistant||Antibiotic Use|
|Durable||Devastating Environmental Impact|
|Alleviates Pressure||Devastating Environmental Impact|
|Renewable and Sustainable|
Benefits of Organic Wool
Free of Harsh Chemicals
Organic wool mattresses are beneficial for people who have allergies because the wool is not dipped in harsh chemicals. These harsh chemicals can cause allergic reactions, they can be severely harmful for the health of people, and the health of the environment. See Harsh Chemicals under Hazards of Conventional Wool for more information.
In its natural form, wool is 100% hypoallergenic because it resists bacteria, mold, mildew and dust mites. Wool fibers contain scales that act as a self cleaning mechanism and ventilating system that transport moisture and allergens away. Because wool readily releases moisture and is water resilient, it does not allow for the damp conditions that mold and dust mites thrive on.
Versatile Natural Insulator
The American Sheep Industry Association describes how wool functions as a natural insulator, helping you feel warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Because wool is an absorbent fiber that helps regulate body temperature, it is comfortable to sleep on year round! When the air is cool and damp, wool absorbs moisture and keeps a layer of dry, insulating air next to the skin. On the other hand, when it is warm, that same absorption capacity takes up perspiration, allowing the body’s natural cooling system to work better. Because of this capacity, beds made with wool don’t develop hot or cold spots, allowing for a better night’s rest.
Wools natural ability to wick away moisture and regulate temperature results in calmer heart rates due to lower humidity next to the skin. This provides for an optimal skin temperature that allows for a more relaxing nights’ rest. The American Sleep Industry Association explains how wool is a hygroscopic fiber; it takes up moisture in vapor form. Tiny pores make the fiber semi-permeable, allowing vapor to pass through the heart of the fiber. Wool can easily absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without feeling damp or clammy. The capacity to absorb makes wool a temperature regulator. Wool absorbs perspiration and keeps a layer of dry air next to the skin, which in turn helps to retain body heat. As wool absorbs moisture, it reacts with molecules and generates heat. However, wool also helps keep the body cool by absorbing perspiration and allowing the body’s natural cooling processes to take place.
Naturally Flame Resistant
According to the American Sheep Industry Association, wool is the only fiber that is naturally flame resistant. Its main component, a protein called keratin, coupled with the moisture collected in its fibers, make it difficult to ignite. Furthermore, the protective lanolin coating found in wool makes it naturally resistant to combustion. Unlike most artificial fibers, which often melt and stick to the skin when on fire, wool usually only smolders or chars. Although wool will burn under intense fire, it normally self extinguishes when the flame source is removed. The use of organic wool in mattresses prevents the need for harsh chemical flame retardants.
Durability and Resilience
Wool is a very resilient natural textile fiber that is both durable and flexible. The American Sheep Industry Association explains how the molecular crimp of wool fibers allow wool to be stretched up to 50% when wet and 30% when dry, and still bounce back to their original shape when stress is released. The flexibility of wool fibers make them more durable. A wool fiber can be bent more than 20,000 times without breaking. The natural elasticity of wool makes woolen fabrics resistant to tearing. The chemical structure of wool also prevents it from compressing. This natural crimp gives wool bounce, body and soft support characteristics. Additionally, the outer skin of the wool fiber acts as a protective film, giving wool cloth improved resistance to abrasion.
Beneath organic latex support wool has an abundance of air spaces between the fibers that help cushion the body and alleviate pressure points. This helps to support the spine and eventually distribute pressure to allow for a night free of tension and full of REM sleep.
Renewable and Sustainable
100% Organic Wool is shorn from free-grazing sheep. Wool can be shorn annually throughout the sheep’s life. This practice is both sustainable and renewable, and puts emphasis on the health and quality of life for the sheep. It’s a big reason we strive to use both organic cotton and organic wool in the covers of our latex mattresses.
Organic wool is beneficial for babies because of naturally crimping wool fibers that create a cushion which helps cradle and soothe the body. Wool’s natural ability to regulate body temperature helps to keep your baby comfortable and relaxed. Wool’s innate insulation system helps your baby stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. These components, coupled with the fact that wool is a natural flame retardant and organic wool is pesticide free, ensures your baby a safe, comfortable, and uninterrupted sleep.
Wool fibers won’t itch because they are encased in an organic cotton cover.
Hazards of Conventional Wool
Sheep are often dipped in insecticides to control external parasites such as ticks and lice. Prolonged exposure to sheep dip pesticides can adversely affect human health. According to the Organic Trade Association:
- More than 14,000 pounds of insecticides were applied to sheep in the United States in 2000, the most recent year for which data is available (in the 22 states which have the highest sheep production). These pesticides are used to control mange, mites, lice, flies, and other pests. Some sheep and lambs receive multiple applications of several different chemicals.
- Pesticides used in sheep dips have consistently been linked with damage to the nervous system in workers that have been exposed to them in the United Kingdom. Even low-dose exposure over the long term has been conclusively linked with reduced nerve fiber function, anxiety, and depression. Long-term exposure to sheep dip has also been linked to reduced bone formation. In addition, residues of Diflubenzuron, an insecticide used in sheep dips, persist in the environment for more than a year.
- See Pesticides Used on Conventional Wool for more information on common pesticides used in conventional sheep rearing.
According to the Organic Trade Association, two antibiotics, Oxytetracycline and Chlortetracycline, are approved for growth promotion in sheep. These antibiotic feed additives are used to promote slightly faster growth and to compensate for overcrowded and unhealthy conditions in concentrated animal feeding operations. Mounting evidence suggests that widespread use of agricultural antibiotics is contaminating surface waters and groundwater, including drinking water, in many rural areas as a result of their presence in animal waste. This non-human use of antibiotics is compromising medicine’s effectiveness in people as bacteria become resistant to antibiotics over time.
Devastating Environmental Impact
Conventional sheep facilities use insecticides to control external parasites and antibiotics to promote growth. According to the Organic Trade Association, Pesticides used in sheep production can pose risks to human health and the environment. The top three insecticides used on sheep in 2005 -Fenvalerate, Malathion and Permethrin-are all slightly acutely toxic to humans, moderately to highly toxic to fish and amphibians, and suspect endocrine disruptors. Malathion is highly water soluble (can be easily transported from the application site by storm water or irrigation water runoff) and the anaerobic half-life for Fenvalerate in soil is more than 155 days, potentially enabling it to cause groundwater contamination.
Pesticides Used On Conventional Wool
According to the Organic Trade Association the top three insecticides used on sheep in 2005 were Fenvalerate, Malathion and Permethrin.
According to the Journal of Pesticide Reform, Malathion, a pesticide in the organophosphate chemical family, is the most commonly used insecticide in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that annual use of Malathion is over 30 million pounds. It is often used in federal and state insect eradication programs and in mosquito control programs.
Human Exposure to Malathion
Symptoms of exposure to Malathion include dizziness, headache, nausea and vomiting, burning eyes, difficulty breathing (exacerbation of asthma), sore or burning throat, irritated or itchy skin, abdominal cramps and lethargy. Malathion has caused genetic damage in a variety of laboratory studies, including a study of mice fed treated grain and studies of human blood cells.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, there is suggestive evidence that Malathion causes cancer. However, recent studies provide stronger evidence: a commercial Malathion insecticide caused breast cancer in laboratory animals, and Malathion use by farmers is associated with an increased incidence of a type of cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. When fed to laboratory animals, Malathion has striking effects on sperm. For example, it caused production of sperm with abnormal chromosomes and sperm that were unable to move.
Malathion and the Environment
According to the Journal of Pesticide Reform, Malathion concentrations of several parts per billion (ppb) harm fish: less than 1 ppb disrupted behavior, 4 ppb killed sensitive species, 10 ppb caused gill damage, and 20 ppb affected swimming ability. In laboratory tests with birds, Malathion disrupted normal thyroid hormone function and caused genetic damage. Also, bird populations have decreased after Malathion spraying because their insect food is killed.
More on Malathion
For more information on Malathion, please view: http://www.pesticide.org/pesticide_factsheets.
Beyondpesticides.org notes the popularity of Fenvalerate, Fenvalerate has been in the news lately due to over 200 reports of dog and cat poisonings, including 26 deaths. The synthetic pyrethroids act as excitatory nerve poisons, thought to poison by interfering with the ionic permeability of nerve cell membranes. Synthetic pyrethroids as a class have now captured an estimated 30% of the commercial insecticide market, due to their generally lower acute toxicity and field persistence compared to classical organochlorine and organophosphate-type insecticides. However, in December 2003, the EPA issued a Cancellation Order for Fenvalerate after registrants requested its cancellation. Products may still be sold, distributed, and used until existing stocks have been exhausted.
Human Exposure to Fenvalerate
Beyondpesticides.org accesses the health effects of Fenvalerate. Fenvalerate, a common synthetic insecticide used on sheep, is known to be slightly toxic. Studies have shown Fenvalerate to cause endocrine disruption, neurotoxicity, kidney/liver damage, and sensitization/irritation in humans. Research suggests that occupational exposure to Fenvalerate may lead to reproductive effects such as semen quality in males. Exposure to Fenvalerate residues can cause itchy, burning skin, respiratory symptoms (sneezing, runny nose, cough, difficult breathing), eye irritation, and a tingling and burning sensation in the hands and face. Fenvalerate works by interfering with the ability of nerve cells to recharge, causing nerve cells to fire for abnormally long periods. This can lead to unusual and painful sensations called dysesthesia and paresthesia. Due to reports of these symptoms, Sweden actually discontinued the use of Fenvalerate in forestry.
Fenvalerate and the Environment
The Chemical Watch Fact Sheet, found on Beyondpesticides.org, states, Researchers have reported that Fenvalerate may cause developmental effects in aquatic organisms. Work by Reynaldi et al., (2006) found that exposure to Fenvalerate reduced feeding activity, resulting in growth retardation and delayed maturity in water fleas. Fenvalerate is extremely toxic to bees
More on Fenvalerate
For more information on Fenvalerate, please take a look at the Chemical Fact Sheet located here: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/pesticides/factsheets/Fenvalerate.pdf
According to the Pesticide Network, the insecticide Permethrin (in the synthetic pyrethroid family) is widely used on cotton, wheat, corn, alfalfa, and wool. Permethrin, like all synthetic pyrethroids, is a neurotoxin.
Human Exposure and Permethrin
According to pesticide.org, symptoms of Permethrin exposure include tremors, incoordination, hyperactivity, elevated body temperature, paralysis, increased aggressive behavior, and disruption of learning. Laboratory tests suggest that Permethrin is more acutely toxic to children than to adults. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has classified Permethrin as a carcinogen because it causes lung tumors in female mice and liver tumors in mice of both sexes. Permethrin inhibits the activity of the immune system in laboratory tests, and also binds to the receptors for a male sex hormone. It causes chromosome aberrations in human and hamster cells.
Permethrin and the Environment
Permethrin is toxic to honey bees and other beneficial insects, fish, aquatic insects, crayfish, and shrimp. For many species, concentrations of less than one part per billion are lethal. Permethrin causes deformities and other developmental problems in tadpoles, and reduces the number of oxygen-carrying cells in the blood of birds. Permethrin has been found in streams and rivers throughout the United States. It is also routinely found on produce, particularly spinach, tomatoes, celery, lettuce, and peaches. A wide variety of insects have developed resistance to Permethrin. High levels of resistance have been documented in cockroaches, head lice, and tobacco budworm, according to The Journal of Pesticide Reform.
More on Permethrin
For more information on Permethrin check out the Journal of Pesticide Reform’s factsheet located here: http://www.pesticide.org/get-the-facts/pesticide-factsheets/factsheets/permethrin
How is Wool Produced?
For a better understanding of organic wool production, check out the following video: http://www.thebostonchannel.com/video/16354658/detail.html or link: http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/sheep.html
What Is The Difference Between Garneting and Carding?
Garneting is a process in wool production that tears the material apart to clean waste and other residue. Garneting is inferior to the carding process, because in the garneting process, wool fibers become tangled and they should be stretched out. Carding is a cleaning and stretching procedure used in wool production. It involves pulling apart strands of wool fiber and stretching them side-by-side to achieve the cleanest and best-performing wool. According to Webster, carding involves combing wool in order to align the fibers of raw sheep fleeces. This process combs out the dirt, organizes the fibers and fluffs up the wools with air so that it can easily be used. All the attributes commonly applied to wool–strong, durable, good loft, aridity–are possible with wool that is well carded. The same is not true of garneted wool. With organic wool the garneting and carding processes are done without chemical additives.
How Much Organic Wool is Grown In The United States and Canada?
A 2005 survey conducted by the Organic Trade Association determined that:
- 19,152 pounds (8,705 kilos) of organic wool was grown in the United States and Canada in 2005
- Specifically, 18,852 pounds (8,551 kilos) of grease wool (shorn, without any cleaning, scouring or further processing) were produced in six U.S. states and 300 pounds (136 kilos) were produced in Ontario
- New Mexico, with 15,300 pounds (6,940 kilos), was the leading producer of certified organic wool in North America, representing 81% of U.S. and 80% of North American organic wool production, followed by Montana (2,400 pounds), Maine (520 pounds), Ontario (300 pounds), Vermont (200 pounds), and New Jersey (132 pounds).
|State||Producers||Total Pounds of Wool|
Which Breeds Of Sheep Are Used In Organic Wool Production?
A 2005 survey conducted by the Organic Trade Association determined that:
- Columbia, Navajo-Churro, Rambouillet, Rambouillet/Suffolk Cross are the main breeds of sheep used in organic wool production
- Others include: Border Leicester, Cheviot, Cormo, Dorset, Karakul, Icelandic, Southdown, Suffolk, Tunis, and unspecified crosses.
What Is The History Of Wool?
The story of wool began 10,000 years ago and the story still continues to today. Sheep provide us with the same necessities as they provided ancient civilizations. For a brief overview of the exciting history of wool, see: http://www.sheepusa.org/Fast_Facts.
Why Does Organic Wool Cost More Than Conventional Wool?
Organic wool costs more than conventional wool for several reasons:
- Organic wool producers receive a higher price at the farm gate as their costs of production are higher, primarily associated with higher labor, management, and certification costs;
- The organic wool industry is very small relative to the overall wool industry and does not have the economies of scale and resulting efficiencies of its conventional counterpart, and
- Federal organic standards for livestock production prohibit overgrazing. If the price of wool is low, the difference cannot be made up by simply increasing production per unit of land, as is commonly practiced by many livestock producers.
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