Memory Foam Off-Gassing and Your Health

As memory foam beds gain in popularity and market share, off-gassing has become a major part of the conversation.  No one wants to cut off their nose to spite their face, and you don’t want to breathe in harmful chemicals to get better support for your back.  I try to pay attention to what I put in and on my body, and can not ignore what’s being said on the internet about my beloved memory foam.  Read on to find out whether you should re-think your memory foam mattress.

What is Memory Foam Off-Gassing?

Memory Foam Off-Gassing

Photo Credit: Brian Fitzgerald

“Off-gassing” is a term for the chemical odor that can sometimes accompany your new memory foam mattress.  Everything naturally gives off a scent, from your neighbor to your apple for lunch, to your new carpet.  The particular scent that most people associate with off-gassing of a memory foam mattress is related to the VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that are sometimes used in the manufacturing process.  Most of these chemicals are rendered inert (inactive) after the product is formulated, but their smell can remain.

Is Off-Gassing Dangerous?

To be perfectly honest, most of the dangerous chemicals that were used have been phased out in the US and the UK.  These are PBDEs, which include formaldehyde and CFCs.  Reactions to these and other chemicals found in memory foam mattresses can include headache, eye and nose irritation, nausea, or respiratory problems.  These symptoms always abate as the scent from the mattress dissipates.  According to the EPA, finished foams used in bedding do not present a health hazard.

How to Avoid Off-Gassing

There are a few ways to avoid the memory foam off-gassing issue entirely:

  1. Purchase a latex mattress instead of a memory foam mattress.  You’ll get similar support, the same durability, great pressure relief, and if you buy natural latex, no off-gassing.
  2. Ask the store to air out the mattress before it is delivered, or air it out yourself once it arrives.  Unwrap the mattress and place it in a closed room with windows open.  Within seventy-two hours, the smell should be gone.
  3. Buy a mattress that carries the CertiPUR-US seal.  CertiPUR-US tests all the materials in the mattress for VOCs, PBDEs, carcinogens, CFCs, formaldehyde, and other toxic materials.  Good options are Simmons CURV, and Comforpedic by Beautyrest.

My Opinion on Memory Foam Off-Gassing

Since I can’t make it all the way through a post without throwing my two cents in, here it goes: I am not worried about the off-gassing from my memory foam mattress.  Sure, I am concerned about chemicals in my everyday life, but I feel like my memory foam bed is really far down on my list.  We use lotions and soaps every day with a bunch of ingredients that we can’t even pronounce.  We eat foods that have a bunch of chemical flavorings.  I breathe in exhaust from cars, second-hand cigarette smoke, and ahem, methane from my husband.  Even with how sensitive my skin and allergies are, I have never had a reaction to my memory foam bed.  I put a mattress protector on it, and ta-da, no smell.

Source Credit: orangefan_2011 (flickr)

Source Credit: orangefan_2011 (flickr)

In all honesty, I think that memory foam off-gassing is a trumped up issue.  It’s the SAME smell as “new car scent”, which we are always trying to replicate with air fresheners.  That new couch that you bought will have the same smell also.  And don’t even get me started on the yucky chemicals that are in your carpet that no one even thinks about.

The end result is that the government believes that memory foam beds are not toxic.  Many companies, such as Comforpedic, have made huge efforts to make their mattresses healthy and scent-free.  Air it out and put an Encase Mattress Protector on it, and rest your body on a conforming, pressure relieving, comfortable memory foam mattress.

This entry was posted in Comforpedic, CURV, Health, Memory Foam and tagged , , by Alyssa Linvill. Bookmark the permalink.

About Alyssa Linvill

Alyssa has been in the mattress industry since 2001, and is very interested in how sleep and comfort affect our quality of life. She has done extensive research regarding the way that mattresses and sleep position both aggravate and alleviate common medical conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and sleep apnea. Currently, Alyssa is helping seniors in Central Florida get a better night's sleep at Dr Snooze, where more attention is paid to the clinical and scientific side of mattress selection. She also writes the blog for Dr Snooze, and has put out many different articles and writings about medical conditions and sleep, as well as reviews on products and ways of making sleeping and mattresses healthier.

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