Chemical sensitivity, MCS, stress, flu, allergies, EI and other similar ailments.
The story of Australia’s premier producer of certified organic cotton mattresses and bedding founded and run by the Byl family
Words by Peter Byl
It was in the mid 1980’s that I began to understand that my constant state of being ‘un-well’ was not due to ‘the flu’ or to ‘stress’ as doctors would have me believe. Nor was it ‘all in my head’, an accusation I found very hard to deal with. I was in a constant state of fog, lacking in energy and motivation but trying desperately to continue running our family conventional bed linen and curtains business.
Day after day I could only go into my office and with my head on my desk, wait for the day to end.
Eventually I was referred to a doctor who dealt with EI (Environmental Illness) as it was then known and my world changed. While this doctor undoubtedly set me on the right path there was at the time very little known and even less accepted, about the effects of the dangerous cocktail of chemicals which we breathe, eat and absorb through our skin all day and every day.
I realised that my working environment was making me sicker by the day. The chemicals formaldehyde, phenol and trichloroethylene 111 (later tested and proven ‘with blind and double blind testing’ to be a main cause of my ‘sensitivities’) were an integral part of my workplace back then.
I was not helping myself in the home either where we were using commercial cleaning, home and personal products generally used by consumers.
Inevitably my state of health required that I give up work and eventually close down the family business. I could no longer socialise, go to the theatre, go out to restaurants or in short, go where ‘other people’ went.
During the next 10 years I spent my forced retirement where I virtually became a recluse, reading and researching everything I could find on this debilitating illness. I had no computer at this time and even the simple act of reading a book was fraught, necessitating the ‘airing off’ of any and all reading materials before I could begin.
My most important achievement during this time was to create for myself a totally organic cotton bedroom, a ‘safe haven’ I could escape to when there was nowhere else I could go. This in itself was a problem as there was nowhere here in Australia that I could purchase organic cotton bed linen, let alone a mattress.
I eventually located a source of certified organic cotton from Turkey, sourced through The Netherlands and made for myself an organic cotton mattress. For the first time in years I slept peacefully.
It felt wonderful!
Every cloud has a silver lining and those ten long, incapacitating years were rewarded with the knowledge gained and the return to (almost always) good health PLUS the ability to return the work force, able to not only provide employment for myself and Maureen but for other family members also.
Thus, Organature was created.
During my many years of research, I discovered the benefits of Certified Organic Cotton and this is how our business, Organature, originated. Early on, we decided that we didn’t want to just sell products; we also wanted to be able to provide people with knowledge and to help them create a healthy bedroom, baby nursery and overall lifestyle, for themselves. I am always happy to talk to people and help out wherever I can. I will also endeavour to inform our customers about other natural and organic textiles products and explain about the toxic chemicals used in non-organic products which could be harmful.
Our products are made with 100% certified organic cotton fabric and filling. These are certified GOTS Sustainable Textiles (Global Organic Textile Standard) and certified.
The growing of conventional (chemically treated) cotton uses synthetic fertilisers and chemical sprays. Both these practices require a lot of water. The processing of the cotton uses yet more chemicals, like formaldehyde for example and yet again, more water. These chemicals can outgas for many years, and they are toxic and have been linked with many injurious health problems.
WHAT DOES “CERTIFIED” ORGANIC MEAN?
Certified Organic simply means free of harmful chemicals; so the raw material and processing is without toxic chemicals. An independent organic certification body ensures regular inspections from the farm right through to production. If all is as per certifier’s tight standards, a certificate is issued to the grower or manufacturer giving consumers assurance of the proper organic certification.
Certified organic cotton must be grown with only the rainwater that falls from the sky. It must be grown ‘Fair Trade’.
Many people are unaware that ‘Fair Trade’ is not certified organic itself, but certified organic encompasses ‘FAIR TRADE’. When organic certification originated for cotton processing – from suitable seeds, to growing then harvesting/picking, removing the seeds, packing the raw cotton, transport to mills, processing the cotton into yarn, into fabrics and final conversion into consumer products – it also encompassed fair trade policies – a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.
Often Certified Organic bedding and textiles are not or mis-understood. There is much misleading advertising, claims that products are natural and organic when they are clearly not. I am proud to guarantee, our Organature products and components are not fumigated, do not contain fire retardants and do not contain formaldehyde or any other harmful chemicals.
OUR FABRIC SOURCE
Unfortunately Australian farmers are not growing cotton by organic methods. Originally we were able to purchase organic cotton from an Australian farmer, Alex Fawcett. It was quality cotton and the commencement of Organature. We owe great thanks and gratitude to Alex. But, inevitably, due to the combination of huge costs and lack of rain water it was not economically feasible for Alex to continue growing this wonderful cotton.
Currently the organic cotton is sourced from the world market; usually countries like Turkey, Egypt, Africa and India. Organature fabric is woven in certified mills. Regrettably the fabric cannot be manufactured in Australia; there is no longer the equipment here to produce the fine yarns or weave the wide width quality fabric we use for our bed linen. So we import our fabric directly from certified mills and our imports are not fumigated.
MADE IN AUSTRALIA
However, I am happy to say all our bed linen, baby towels, some of our clothing and infant range are made in our exclusive workroom (and showroom) in South Gippsland, Victoria. Our Australian hardwood bed bases, cots and other furniture are made here too.
The only exception being our organic cotton terry towels and bathrobes. Sadly we had no choice but to go overseas as Australian mills were not certified to produce them.
The cutting tables and the shelving are constructed from Australian hardwood, (we do not use chipboard or MDF). We recycle boxes. The shed where our bed bases, cots, bedside and other furniture is made is located close by on a family property surrounded by tall eucalypts and native plants.
As a family who own and run the entire enterprise, we can control every facet of our business. For instance, we do not use chemical fragrances or chemical personal care products, like perfumes or after shave, which may permeate the fabrics and cause a problem for those who are chemically sensitive.
No chemical washing powders/liquids, dishwashing liquid, personal and household cleaners are used here either. For cleaning we simply use vinegar and Bi-carbonate soda. And it goes without saying that chemicals are not used for pest or weed control.
In fact it’s easy to put simply – no fly spray, just a swat. No weed killers, just tools and hands. No oven cleaner, just elbow grease. No air fresheners, just fresh air.
I am often asked about the colour range available in our organic cottons and here is a brief rundown on them. Natural is the raw colour without any bleach or dye. White is ‘oxygen’ (hydrogen peroxide) bleach. We follow the European certification standard which does not allow certain chemicals, such as the use of Optic Brighteners (OB) which is a chemical allowed with organic certification in the USA and is also brought into Australia by some other retailers of organic cotton bedlinen.
Colours are low impact dyes and may initially run slightly as certified organic are not permitted to use chemical dye setting.
Whether you are looking for sheet sets, pillow cases, quilt covers, for yourself, your children or your baby, we have a large range. We make pillows, quilts, blankets and towels. We also have a range of fun and funky baby’s and children’s garments.
On the larger side of things, we produce innerspring mattresses which range from cot to king-size and futons made with 100% Certified Organic Cotton to provide a truly healthy night’s sleep.
One more thing, we have had great pleasure in creating is our hardwood bed-base range. After numerous requests from clients (who discovered that imported and even local timber products are frequently fumigated and finished with chemical-based paints or varnish), we now manufacture several styles of bed bases. These are made in a small family workshop and crafted from Australian hardwood. This timber is from managed forests and sourced from a local timber mill thus reducing carbon impact.
We sell direct to the consumer so that you are able to purchase at reasonable prices and can feel confident that your products are safe from contamination by third party outside sources. Organature mattresses, futons and toppers are packed firstly into an organic calico bag, then a heavy duty plastic bag (this is required to protect from elements during transport) and lastly into an outer carton. Other goods such as bed linen are wrapped in true cellulose film, or a calico bag, then either heavy duty paper or a well aired cardboard carton.
Organature innerspring mattresses, futon mattresses (except cot), bed bases, cots, bedside tables and drawers are delivered by freight transport companies.
So that is our story so far. Two generations of my family are involved in Organature and we are committed to the environment, the organic movement and providing our customers with the best possible quality organic products available. There will be more to come!
Feel free to Contact Us at any time to find out more.