Is your mattress harming you? Is memory foam toxic?

Woman waking up feeling tired.

Are you tossing and turning at night? Getting too hot? Waking up with a headache and feeling tired?

Is your mattress harming you? It may be time to consider the facts! Numerous international studies prove the toxic and harmful effects of long-term exposure to sleeping on foam mattresses. I am not talking just about, cheap foam mattresses, but rather those expensive mattresses sold to you as beneficial to your back pain and quality of sleep. Yes, this includes memory foam, a popular choice due to its responsiveness and flexible structure.

The process involved in manufacturing memory foam is concerning. This material was originally designed as a safety feature for use by NASA’s space program in 1966. It has wonderful shock absorbing qualities and works well for spreading the impact of pressure or applied force. Understandably, this is possibly one of its best selling points as many people seek a mattress that will aid pain relief. Memory foam is marketed to help people suffering from chronic pain or injuries sleep with greater comfort. However, the fact remains that memory foam contains chemical compounds which are not fit for use by humans especially when exposed over a long time.

So are big mattress manufacturing companies purposefully keeping us in the dark?

It is far cheaper to manufacture foam and increase your profit margins. But at what cost to your health as the consumer?

Did you know? Almost every mattress in the world contains polyurethane foam made from petrochemicals.

A little bit about petrochemicals…..

All foam is made of petrochemicals. In other words, by-products are extracted during the refinement process of crude oil. The word petroleum can be translated ‘rock oil’ from the Latin ‘oleum’ which means oil and the Greek ‘petra’ which means rock. Petroleum is one of the most useful and popular commodities in the world and is used extensively to manufacture common household products which have become essential to our daily lives. But, it is also one of the most toxic!

A few examples of the top petrochemical products and their uses are:

  • Ethylene – commonly found in cleaning agents and detergents
  • Benzene – used to make nylons found in clothes
  • Food preservatives – used to prolong the shelf life of foods and also used to enhance colour or taste
  • Cosmetics
  • Fertilizers
  • Carpets – used to strengthen fibres and add colour
  • Mattresses – foam and pillows

One of the main compounds in foam is polyurethane. Polyurethane, and its use, is not regulated or monitored; despite evidence that it can be harmful when combined with other chemicals. Other compounds found in foam may cause harm to the skin or cause respiratory illnesses. The bottom line is that these toxic chemical compounds make toxic products.

Research conducted in Atlanta, USA, analyzed several memory foam mattresses and discovered that they were emitting 61 different types of chemicals. Some of these chemicals are carcinogens; including benzene and naphthalene. This information was first announced and published by Walter Bader, the author of the book “Toxic Bedrooms”.  

Duke University in the US completed clinical evaluations researched certain components used in memory foams. Those included isocyanates. The isocyanate compounds researched were acetone, benzene, ethylene oxide, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, and 1,1,1 -trichloroethane. What they discovered was that even the brief exposure caused damage. Even the minimal amount of toxicity of these compounds causes asthmatic attacks.

Is your mattress harming you? No doubt about it! Research clearly indicates that you are exposed to numerous toxins when you sleep on polyurethane foam.

Flame Retardant Mattresses

Another ingredient found in manufactured foam is di-isocyanates. These increase flame retardancy in foam mattresses and they mix with other chemical compounds to produce a more flexible memory foam. Increased flame retardancy has become a legal requirement in the US and so has increased exposure to these toxic compounds even further. However, these are highly reactive compounds and are linked to respiratory problems, allergic reactions, and skin damage and are known to be carcinogenic to humans. Petrochemicals are absorbed through your skin and build up in your tissues and organs. These unstable substances are the main cause of the rapid degradation of health.

Did you know? Wool is naturally flame retardant.

But HOW do these chemicals cause us harm?….Off-gassing

You might have heard the term, but what does it mean? In simple terms, it’s the airborne release of a chemical. You might have noticed this with a new product, new carpets, fresh paint, or a new foam bed, that ‘new’ smell is off-gassing. Whilst the smell becomes more subtle over time, the chemicals will continue to gradually leach into the air for years. In addition, it is not only those chemicals which escape into the air but include long-term exposure through contact with your skin. For many people, it may not be obvious but in those with compromised immune systems or physiologically underdeveloped ones, i.e. children, the sensitivity and effects are often visible. 

Woman waking up with headache

Whilst we are not keen on the idea of breathing in chemicals constantly, you may ask but what are the real dangers, and is there any alternative? The truth is everything off-gasses, even plants but of course, some chemicals are significantly more harmful, even toxic, than others and these include those in plastics and adhesives, found in every foam mattress.

The effects are many and varied but studies have shown that prolonged exposure to these toxins causes headaches, respiratory illnesses, and a variety of cancers. In fact, there has been a huge increase in cancer since the 1960s which coincides with the use of petrochemicals and this is something that cannot be ignored.

Here’s a list of the worst offenders and their potential impacts.

The alternative mattress choice

Your mattress may be harming you but you have a choice. Choose carefully sourced options such as all-wool carpets, duvets, pillows or beds, or natural rubber, also known as natural latex and sustainable wood rather than those composites. Shop at Naturelle Beds for the purest bed in the world.

So who do you believe?

Well, first check out the certifications of the company selling you ‘eco-friendly’ mattresses and bedding. Even latex, a natural rubber product is not always free of chemicals, it depends on the process of production. Don’t let your mattress prevent you from healthy sleep. Know what you are paying for – this will give you peace of mind so that you don’t have to wonder: Is your mattress harming you?

Many research studies such as those linked here show the adverse health effects of not only living near petrochemical industries but using these products.

In the old days, mattresses were made from cotton and coir which are natural. Whilst we believe in the natural, we also believe in comfort. Wool is naturally flame retardant and temperature regulating whilst natural latex provides you with supreme comfort, flexibility, does not make you hot and optimises your quality of sleep.

Where does it end? What about your bedding? Is your mattress harming you? Consider being snuggled under a microfibre or hollow fibre duvet. Regular bedding often contains toxic chemicals from the manufacturing process. At Naturelle Beds, we take your health and beauty sleep seriously which is why we offer an exclusive range of wool duvets, pillows, mattress toppers, futons, and a range of chemical-free, certified natural latex and wool mattresses…..the purest bed in the whole wide world. We have something for everyone, YOUR health matters.