for years, Walt Bader, president and CEO of Organic Mattresses, Inc. (OMI), was plagued by persistent, unexplained allergies. growing up, walks through the supermarket resulted in burning, watery eyes; trips to the toy store were hampered with bouts of dizziness. Walt’s condition – though undiagnosed at the time – is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), a chronic disorder characterized by such non-specific symptoms as fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and headaches. the culprit for these ailments? everyday chemical exposure.
yes, chemicals are most certainly part of our everyday – in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the air we breathe, and even the furniture we sit on. It might not occur to us to diagnose our reoccurring headache as a consequence of this exposure, but Walt makes the compelling case that we should think otherwise. a pioneer in the world of organic furniture-making, OMI has been blazing a trail for a new paradigm, one that insists the foundation for good health begins where we all spend a third of our lives: in the bedroom, sleeping. mattresses, Walt points out, are a chemical-laden cocktail filled with toxins, potential carcinogens, antimicrobial additives, and flame retardants, all of which your skin is directly exposed to while sleeping (for hours) each night. his mission is creating a product where, in his words, “you can have comfort and safety together.”
in 2003, OMI constructed the first large-scale dedicated organic factory; in 2008, it produced the first certified GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) organic mattress; in 2012, they created the first fully certified organic latex mattress. we’re proud to carry an exclusive assortment of ABC Home & Planet OMI mattresses and mattress pads, and have an interview to share with Walt, below.
what can buyers expect from an OMI mattress?
we offer consumers third party certified organic mattresses. we do this, among many reasons, so that they actually understand that there are standards relative to the product they’re spending money on. the thing about conventional mattresses is that you have no idea what is inside of them, the toxins, the chemicals, what they emissions are. our products provide assurances in a marketplace that isn’t transparent. I thought that was the best thing we could do – to give our customers assurance that the money they’re spending is for a legitimate product, created from certified organic materials.
it’s a 20-year guarantee, our product – but they will last much longer than that. they are handmade in America; everything from our factory is done from scratch.
you mention comfort and safety as two important pillars of OMI. why safety?
in the United States, we’ve never really asked: do I sleep comfortably or do I sleep safely? mattresses have always been sold on the basis of comfort and price. not comfort and safety. we need to change that way of thinking.
along these lines, can you discuss the connection between sickness and our chemical surroundings, particularly as it pertains to mattresses?
people have to understand that once they start using synthetic chemicals to sleep on, there is fall out from that ubiquitous environment of chemicals. the consequences might be hard to ever conclusively prove, but the markers — such as 50 percent of all men and a third of all women get cancer in their lifetimes — is significant enough that we need to start evaluating our surroundings.
there is now increased awareness around what we’re putting into our bodies, namely in the food industry. but rarely do we discuss the safety of our furniture or mattresses. why?
that’s a great question! It’s a two-part answer. number one: the chemical lobby. they are very effective and they will squash whatever legislation draws attention to the chemical ingredients – and effects of those ingredients – in consumer products. and everything out there has a chemical emission, including our mattresses.
the other answer is this: we’re in a niche market. we don’t have the volume players. without that, you don’t have volume communications. our company, frankly, doesn’t have an advertising budget to take out a Super Bowl ad. so the public, for the most part, is blissfully ignorant.
we’re surrounded by hazards to our health – not just in our mattresses. change seems hard. how do we begin to eliminate seemingly omnipresent chemicals?
that is the universal question everyone asks.
everyone is under so much stress today. nobody likes taking in information that requires change in his or her life. everyone wants status quo; “I’ll handle it tomorrow.” change is the thing that scares people the most. we don’t have time for change. but we have time to get an MRI, we have time to go get a mammogram.
you know, I have a brother whose specialty was preventative medicine. he was never able to make a living at it. investing in an organic mattress is a bit like preventative medicine, but it does require change.
to help guide the process, I developed a principle I call “avoidance and substitution.” with chemicals as ubiquitous as they are in our lifestyle and with limited access to knowledge, it’s hard to know what we’re consuming. my advice: if you don’t know, avoid it. if it’s not necessary for your life, more than likely it can be avoided.
if there is a product that you cannot avoid, then you need to substitute it for one with the least possible hazards. for example, let’s discuss toilet paper: it comes plain and printed. when you print something, you use inks and dyes and chemicals. why buy a printed toilet paper? it’s not necessary.
we need to consciously think about what to avoid and what not to avoid — which all comes with awareness. which is what ABC is providing a platform for.