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What we know as LATEX begins as the sap harvested from the rubber tree (Hevea Brasiliensis) This milky white liquid then undergoes processing to form the molten latex into the desired shape and firmness.

Later, as natural materials began to be replaced by similar materials made from petroleum, synthetic latex came on the market.

Latex is used in many forms to make many products.

For the moment, to get started with this subject, I’m going to write about latex foam, specifically latex foams as used in mattresses, and then I will add more information to this.

WARNING: Some people are allergic to latex. If you are allergic you should obviously not use any product made with latex in any form.

Sources of Latex

The raw material to make latex foam for mattresses and furniture are are
1. crude oil
2. sap of the rubber tree Heaven brasilliensis

Latex made from petroleum is called “synthetic”. The most common type of synthetic latex is SBR (styrene-butadiene rubber). Yes, styrene like Styrofoam cups, which leach styrene into beverages. Synthetic latex as a stronger odor than natural latex and usually does not mean emissions standards of testing organizations such as Oeko-Tex and Greenguard.

Synthetic latex is often mixed with natural latex and marketed as “blended.” But it’s not half and half. Usually blended latex is mostly synthetic with a small amount of natural latex.

Natural latex is made from the sap of the rubber tree. The sap is “tapped” from rubber trees much in the way maple syrup is tapped from maple trees.

There are two types of natural latex:
1. natural latex
2. organic latex

While both come from the rubber tree, natural latex may have various chemicals used in the growing or processing of the sap, which are mostly unknown.

Organic latex sap is certified to usual organic standards.

So there are basically three raw materials:
1. synthetic SBR latex
2. natural latex sap
3. organic latex sap

Processes to Turn Latex Into Foam

There are two basic processes
1. Dunlop
2. Talalay

Dunlop was the original process used to make latex and is simpler than Talalay.

Read a comparison of Dunlop and Talalay here

From the viewpoint of choosing the least toxic latex, these processing methods don’t seem to make much difference. The most important aspect of choosing a nontoxic latex is the raw material.

In the marketplace you’ll find:
* synthetic latex made with Dunlop or Talalay.
* natural latex mostly Dunlop, with some Talalay
* organic latex is all Dunlop at this time (but that may change as more organic latex becomes available)

If it’s organic, it’s Dunlop. But if it’s Dunlop, it could be synthetic, natural or organic.

Organic Latex Foam

The bottom line is if you want the most natural and nontoxic latex, choose organic.

Organic latex has two certifications. The rubber tree plantations are certified organic according to USDA National Organic Program, and its processing is certified organic to the Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS).


ZERO TOXICS is rooted in my forty years of research and experience living toxic-free. I'm gathering and organizing the data I have to make this knowledge available to everyone. Feel free to ask questions, share data, and join in the discussion in the comments section below.
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Debra Lynn Dadd, Founder, Zero Toxics | Contact } Consulting | About