Jan 01, 2018
by Angela Cummings and Sophia Ruan Gushée
Cushy and squishy, polyurethane foam gives us comfortable mattresses. It adds padding and coziness while providing the support and structure needed for a good night’s sleep. This is why it's so popular in conventional mattresses and the main attraction in memory foam mattresses.
But did you know that polyurethane foam can be a source of toxic fumes and toxic dust?
Polyurethane foam is made from petroleum-byproducts and is highly flammable. “In fact, fire marshals refer to polyurethane foam as “solid gasoline,” according to the National Association of State Fire Marshals (2015) as cited in A to Z of D-Toxing. (1)
Several chemicals found in foam mattresses pose adverse health risks. A to Z of D-Toxing provides a detailed overview of chemicals that can be found in polyurethane foam and their possible health effects. In summary, here’s what’s in standard foam mattresses:
These chemicals in polyurethane foam do not necessarily stay contained in your mattress and can be adopted by your home and body. Several chemicals listed above can be found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) or fall into the group of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). HAPs and VOCs can pollute your bedroom and the rest of the home. Those fumes become part of the air we breathe (and even the dust we inhale or ingest). The air we inhale during our sleep each night should be of special focus.
Safer mattress choices are growing in popularity. Manufacturers of safer mattresses follow a few tried-and-true general guidelines in order to keep chemicals out of mattresses and out of our bedroom air. Below are a few guidelines for choosing safer mattresses. Consider ones that are:
Polyurethane foam mattresses, dubbed “solid gasoline”, can give off toxic fumes that may be linked to short- and long- term health conditions. The guidelines above for choosing a safer mattress can help determine which mattresses are made from natural and nontoxic materials instead of those made from chemicals or synthetics. After choosing a safer mattress, let the mattress air out and breathe for a few hours before making the bed.(4) Then enjoy a restful night’s sleep knowing you chose a safer mattress.
If you'd like help getting started with detoxing your home, then consider Home Detox 101.
Access Sophia's shopping list for her household staples. They're her favorite low toxic items that she can't live without.