Although there is some debate about the severity of the problem, most people agree the environment needs our help. From greenhouse emissions to holes in the ozone to melting polar ice caps, we’re learning more and more about the consequences of not being good environmental custodians—as well as what it’ll cost us, both today and for generations to come. So look below the linen and just think about what’s gone, or going into, your massage table.
Currently there are three main materials that are commercially available for massage table upholstery; leather, PVC Vinyl and our preferred PVC free PU Leather. A common misconception is that all synthetic fabrics are the same and are considered unnatural or more toxic than natural leather.
Leather, is it really eco friendly?
Mankind’s relationship with leather dates back thousands of years. The hide of animals has been used for centuries, keeping homosapiens warm, but is it the best option for your massage table?
It’s the most expensive upholstery option and also high maintenance. It may start out as a natural product, but is it really eco-friendly?
Raising animals for food and leather requires huge amounts of feed, pastureland, water, and fossil fuels. Although some leather products may be touted as “eco-friendly,” turning skin into leather requires massive amounts of energy and dangerous chemicals, including mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, dyes and finishes, some of them cyanide-based. Tannery effluent contains large amounts of pollutants, such as salt, lime sludge, sulfides, and acids. The process of tanning stabilizes the collagen or protein fibers in skins so that they actually stop biodegrading. People who work in and live near tanneries suffer too from exposure to toxic chemicals used to process and dye the leather.
Although widely used and durable PVC vinyl is the most environmentally damaging material. Throughout its lifecycle it requires hazardous chemicals for production, releases harmful additives and creates toxic wastes.
The production of PVC powder involves the transport of dangerous explosive materials such as vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) and the creation of toxic waste, notably ethylene dichloride (EDC) tars. Tar wastes in particular, contain huge quantities of dioxins that are then incinerated or dumped, spreading dioxins into the wider environment.
Numerous additives are incorporated into the PVC to make a wide variety of products. Some of these additives are softeners (plasticisers) to make it soft and pliable, heavy metals as stabilisers or to give it colour, and fungicides to stop fungi from eating the other additives. So the production of PVC also involves a huge secondary toxic manufacturing industry.
As well as environmentally damaging, PVC consumer products also present a hazard to consumers. Plasticisers are not bound to the plastic and can leach out over time.
PU Leather is the best option
So enter the ingenuity of mankind and a revolutionary earth friendly upholstery fabric. Since the onset of the 20th century, advancements in polymer science have enabled us to enjoy a leather look while mitigating some of the problems associated with natural leather. For people who love the look and functionality of leather but are committed to a lifestyle prohibiting the use of animal products, synthetic leather is an appropriate choice. These materials are produced without using any animal products, are much more environmentally friendly and are biodegradable.
PU Leather, is a highly commercial and popular type of synthetic leather. PU is an acronym for polyurethane material. Polyurethane is a type of polymer, which is formed through a process called step-growth polymerization. It’s soft, flexible, requires minimal maintenance and is strong. Made by coating a backing fabric with a flexible polymer, it is then treated to produce the “leather” look. PU is used for shoes, clothing, handbags and furniture.
PU also offers superior ventilation over PVC offering a degree of ‘breathability’. The super soft touch says “luxury” while keeping your environmental consciousness and your wallet happy. Whilst PU may show more signs of wear after heavy usage than PVC or leather, its clear advantages in the environmental and health stakes makes this the material of choice for Firm.n.Fold massage tables.