Memory foam is regarded as an affordable option for a mattress while still providing comfort and quality. It has unique benefits too like the way it hugs your body to give you extra support. It’s also basically noiseless so absorbs the movements of tossing and turning in the night. In this article, you’ll learn more about memory foam and what it is. But we will also answer the question, is memory foam toxic?
You cannot make memory foam without polyurethane. Polyurethane, a petroleum-based material, is made up of three basic ingredients.
The manufacturing of polyurethane foam is considered to expose people to these sources of health disruptions – methylene chloride, TDI (it is considered to be a problematic chemical when you consider an environment that concentrates it, such as a factory), hydrogen cyanide, and the neurotoxin – toluene.
Memory foam doesn’t just contain polyurethane foam. It could also come with these hidden toxins.
On its own, polyurethane foam, or memory foam, is highly flammable. It’s basically solidified gasoline. So to protect the material, it’s doused in flame retardants. A common flame retardant used is called PBDEs, which stands for polybrominated diphenyl ethers. This chemical has been linked to cognitive impairment, memory loss, as well as delayed puberty, hormone disruption, and cancer.
The mattresses are required to meet strict standards such as withstanding a two-foot-wide blowtorch flame for at least 70 seconds (or up to a half-hour) to prove that it has been sufficiently fireproofed. However, the standards seem to drastically drop or disappear when it comes to the regulation of the flame retardants being used in these products and most of them contain fiberglass which can be dangerous if the cover gets torn and it can escape into the air you breathe.
As with all toxins, the severity of your negative reaction will depend on the extent of your exposure to it. The trouble with giving a clear “yes” or “no” answer about the effects of memory foam on your health is that studies are too vague. There is practically no way to truly test the long-term effects and the likelihood of the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) from your mattress being the cause of health problems. The chemicals themselves are proven to be dangerous, but they are only as dangerous to you as much as you are exposed to them.
The memory foam itself is made of some ingredients you want to avoid. If you are chemically sensitive or have allergy issues, then conventional memory foam mattresses may just aggravate the conditions. The chances are that you could be repeatedly exposed to those chemicals because of your mattress off-gassing for months after you purchased it.
There is reason enough to say that memory foam is bad for your health just by reason of the flame retardant treatments it undergoes. There are many known toxins in those mixes. Luckily, more manufacturers are starting to make low-VOC mattresses. This means you will still have to be around the chemicals, but not in doses that could cause real harm. In essence, your level of exposure or harm is up to you through your choice of which mattress to buy.
The companies who are trying to move towards making safer, less toxic memory foam mattresses are making substitutions for safer alternatives. Companies can substitute some of the petroleum used in making polyurethane with a plant-based material instead that will decrease the off-gassing after production.
There are many “green” companies that do try to cut corners or abuse the trust of consumers by labeling themselves as clean, green companies when they are not. In fact, it’s easy to be confused about who to believe, especially now since it’s become fashionable to call your company green. For your peace of mind, here are some certifications to look out for when shopping for your next mattress. No fakes, no hidden toxins.
When shopping for a non toxic memory foam mattress, make sure it’s Certipur-US certified and that the cover is made from organic materials, such as organic cotton or wool. These materials, if certified organic, have not been treated with pesticides and other chemicals so they will further reduce your exposure to toxins when you sleep. One of the best non-toxic memory foam mattresses is:
PlushBeds is an award-winning company that boasts a long list of certifications and claims to have made the world’s first Greenguard Gold certified memory foam mattress. Their patented gel memory foam allows improved airflow and dissipates heat and moisture three times faster than conventional swirl gel foam. The unique 5 layer system consists of the following to give you extra support and comfort:
To finish it off, you need a good foundation or bed base to give the maximum support to yourself and your bed. The mattresses are compatible with an adjustable base too.
The gel memory foam gives a cooling comfort to solve the common problem with traditional memory foam mattresses – overheating. You can choose the size that suits you. Your choices are:
You can try the mattress free for 100 nights and if you love it, you have a 25-year warranty on it. They offer free shipping and returns.
They have offset their website’s carbon emissions as well, so they are a TerraPass Carbon Neutral website.
All the materials used in the production of their luxurious mattresses are 100% certified. And the materials are harvested in an ethical, sustainable manner. When the mattresses are complete, they go through a rigorous 95-point inspection before they are shipped to you.
An organic mattress is usually produced by a layer of mixtures made with either natural cotton and wool (or both), and natural, organic latex. These materials are cultivated with no pesticides and then manufactured without chemicals involved in the processes. Most people define an organic mattress as:
In addition to those characteristics, most organic mattresses are also:
An organic mattress will offer you the benefits of conventional memory foam mattresses, like elasticity, extra support, and comfort, without needing to use toxic chemicals. You get even more than you would with regular memory foam mattresses too. Organic mattresses are fantastic at regulating temperatures, wicking moisture, and being adaptable to your specific needs.
Avocado organic, handmade mattresses are manufactured in the USA. You have a 1-year free trial and a 25-year warranty. You can choose a Vegan option that is made without wool. But otherwise, their mattresses are made with organic, certified cotton, wool, and latex. There is a standard option and you can choose to add a pillow top. These are 2 inches of permanently attached organic latex that will give extra help to alleviate pressure and add luxury.
You can get a removable pillow top if you’d prefer that; it’s called a mattress topper. Your Avocado mattress will have up to 1,414 individually pocketed, tempered support coils. These will be reinforced around the edges with a steel perimeter for support. The flexibility of the coils provides extra luxurious comfort that is perfect for any sleeper, but especially for a side sleeper.
The mattresses are finished with a traditional technique that is centuries old called needle tufting. This highly functional technique creates rosettes with white organic wool. These rosettes act to bind the layers of the mattress together by pulling the ribbons through it in up to 32 locations.
It means no toxic solvents or water-based adhesives are necessary. This beautiful, unique process improves the durability of the mattress too. On the side panels of the mattress, you’ll find heavy-duty handles securely sewn on to make any adjustments easier. But, you won’t need them for flipping the mattress – it doesn’t need to be flipped!
The certifications of the company are a proud way of displaying their compliance with strict standards. But it’s also a way of telling the consumer just how much effort has gone into ensuring the product they buy is safe and non-toxic. Here are the certifications Avocado possesses:
This brand is also a carbon negative business which means they offset more than 100% of their emissions. This includes emissions through all the steps of the process, from resource gathering to shipping. They achieve this by supporting the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.
To show you their commitment to transparency, Avocado gives you the legal tag information ahead of time, available in full on their website. This is a unique gesture that many mattress companies will not do because it may give away discrepancies in marketing versus the reality of their mattresses. The legal tag must include exactly what material makes up the interior filling of the mattress. Avocado has nothing to hide, and they prove that.
This study illustrates the effects of your mattress choices, not just limited to memory foam mattresses. It shows that your mattress is directly related to your quality of sleep. And furthermore, your sleeping position also determines which mattress density is right for you. So, depending on the type of sleeper you are (back sleeper, side sleeper, etc.) your memory foam mattress could cause back pain if you choose the wrong type.
The ideal firmness for your mattress will keep your spine neutrally aligned, thus alleviating the pressure points. If your mattress is too soft or too firm, it can cause back pain because it will not be giving you the right support.
Yes, eventually, it will sag. The natural process of wearing it down over many years can cause an indentation that will not bounce back. You can slow down the process that leads to sagging by following these steps:
As mentioned before, high-quality memory foam mattresses will have a longer lifespan than those made with lower-quality materials. The average time a memory foam mattress will last is between 8-10 years. This is the average, but of course, there are exceptions. You can decrease the lifespan by a build-up of bacteria or the wrong mattress foundation (a lack of support can lead to premature sagging and indentation).
Yes. There are no official studies showing the dangers of the gel. However, its effectiveness is in question. The gel is a conductive material, so while it may feel cool initially, it will warm slowly to your body temperature after all. Therefore, it will not really take away the overheating problem that memory foam mattresses are known for. So, it may be an ineffective addition to your mattress, but at least it is safe.
The materials used in memory foam mattresses could be toxic and off-gassing VOCs. Studies have proven that polyurethane mattresses specifically have a higher rate of off-gassing VOCs. Thus, you would smell a “chemical-like” odor coming from your mattress for a few weeks.
However, the strength of the smell is determined by the materials. A low-quality memory foam mattress can contain added chemicals like benzene, flame retardants, and formaldehyde. These chemicals and the polyurethane makeup of the mattress itself can smell strong until you let it air out.
You could stop smelling it after just three days if you let the mattress air out without bedding and in a well-ventilated room. So, avoid sleeping on it for that period. But, it can continue off-gassing after that, just with a faint smell. The smell could potentially last up to 2 weeks. But, the length of time depends on the materials used, the manufacturing process, the density of your mattress, etc.
While IKEA mattresses certainly aren’t non-toxic, they are not as bad as other mattresses you could buy. They comply with European chemical restriction standards, so the chances are that although their mattresses do contain some chemicals, they probably aren’t as bad as some of the options from the USA.
Some Tempurpedic mattresses (mainly Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Breeze, Tempur-Pedic Tempur Adapt, Tempur-Pedic Tempur LuxeAdapt, Tempur-Pedic Tempur ProAdapt) are Certipur-US certified, which means that the levels of toxic chemicals used are very low and these mattresses are safe. As long as you buy one of those mattresses, you’ve got the guarantee that you won’t be exposed to toxic chemicals that could affect your health. The only way to know your mattress is toxin-free is to buy a natural, certified non-toxic type.
To feel the differences, you need to sleep on plain foam versus memory foam. You will immediately feel the difference, but to save you time, here are a few of the key things that distinguish them. Memory foam is a type of foam that has added components to change the way it feels. that’s why it can hold its shape longer. Plain, old foam is soft, as is memory foam. But, foam does not retain shape or indentation like memory foam will.
Memory foam will give you pinpointed support because of its “sticky” ability to hug the contours of your body. Foam fails to provide any constructed support and tends to collapse quicker under pressure. Foam is also not as durable because of its often lower density. Memory foam is usually denser and more expensive. It will also eliminate motion transfer, unlike foam, which cannot completely do away with the transfer.
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