Update July 2013: This article about an organic latex mattress is no longer 100% factually correct given recent updates in the industry.
There is now organic latex available thanks to the new Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS).
However this has been adopted only by a few merchants such as Savvy Rest and Naturepedic. Many merchants who do not use certified organic latex still market their products as organic. For that reason I am allowing this article to stand unchanged as a reference point for now. The principle of some companies abusing the term organic still stands.
It is easy to get confused when you see the terms organic latex mattress and natural latex mattress bandied about carelessly.
Many merchants - it seems - often prefer not to explain it properly because it doesn't help their marketing efforts.
For something to be marketed as "organic" it needs to be certified as organic by an independent third party organization. At present the only things in the world that are being certified are foods and fabrics. Latex has no third party certification available and therefore nobody can claim to sell an organic latex product.
The best a manufacturer can do is conform to the Oeko Tex environmental standard. Premium mattress manufacturers will do this. However this is a certification for good environmental practice, not an organic certification.
Things can get a little confusing when merchants start advertising an organic latex mattress.
If you read closely you will see that what they call an organic latex mattess is actually made of naturally harvested latex and either organic cotton, organic wool or both. The organic bit refers to the wool or the cotton, not to the latex.
This is a slick little marketing trick that you need to be aware of. Technically merchants can't advertize their product as organic latex. So instead they will label it as an "organic natural latex mattress."
When you are making your decision look for an all natural latex mattress or 100% natural latex mattress. This means that they are only using latex that comes from the rubber tree, rather than synthetic latex that is made in a lab.
Absolutely. Just because it has to be called natural does not mean that a mattress isn't made out of organic materials. It just means that no independent certifier has proven it to be so.
The more important thing to look out for is the percentage of natural and synthetic latex. Low quality mattresses will be a blend of synthetic chemical based latex and the natural stuff. The worst will be entirely synthetic.
Luxury mattresses will be made out latex that is 100% natural. They can't be certified as organic but that does not mean they are laced with chemicals. Premium manufacturers don't cut corners. They ensure that the process is entirely natural without the use of toxic chemicals.
If organic certified latex existed then premium manufacturers would use it. Hopefully it will be available in the future.