Are Memory Foam Mattresses Safe to Sleep On?

Yes, memory foam mattresses are safe. We spend a third of our lives asleep, so about a year ago I started researching as much as I could about mattresses. I’m a health freak, and I’m very wary of what I put into my body. I’m gluten-free and I try not to eat meats that have steroids or antibiotics in them. I’m also all-natural and organic regarding the cleaners I use, and I’m very into essential oils. I understand that other people are just as passionate about health as me, so I decided to investigate what was in my mattress and share the results with my family and friends.

What is Inside Memory Foam Mattress

You might think that there would be materials used to create mattresses that you might not necessarily be familiar with. Still, I didn’t realize exactly what they were going to be or what they would actually entail like toxins. I didn’t realize the results that sleeping on a mattress with so many by-products could have on my health.

Memory Foam Mattresses are Made Up of Polyurethane

There’s usually a polyurethane foam layer and a polyurethane core layer. This sounded like a lot of polyurethane, possibly too much. Polyurethane, if you don’t know, is made from petroleum. I wasn’t sure I wanted petroleum in what I was sleeping on, and that’s not even the worst of it.

There are Other Ingredients That I Can’t Pronounce as Well

Additionally, there are polyols, which work as binders— they’re usually petroleum oil based as well. There are blowing agents, which introduce carbon to create the foam, and there are also diisocyanates— the reactive ingredient. These diisocyanates react between the polls and the diisocyanates to produce a flexible foam.

The most commonly used sources are called MDI and TDI which alone and in raw forms are known carcinogens. They also can cause over-sensitization from your lungs, respiratory system, and skin.

Chemicals in memory foam:

  • MDA – A by-product during manufacturing – this is a carcinogen and skin and eye irritant. It can cause thyroid and liver damage if you ingest it
  • Vinilideine chloride – A by-product during manufacturing. Causes eye and respiratory irritation, organ damage
  • Methy benzene – Inhalation can affect your nervous system
  • Dimethyformanide – Can cause organ damage. Primary risk is during manufacturing
  • Acetone – Girls know this as nail polish remover. Can cause harm if you have exposure to it for too long or too often
  • Methylene chloride – A solvent. Irritates the mucous membrane
  • Formaldehyde – Typically not added to the foams, but can be a by-product

A lab in Atlanta analyzed several mattresses made of memory foam material. It found them to emit over 60 different types of chemicals!

Since 2004, OSHA decided to regulate memory foam mattresses, and the United States government decided that they must be flame retardant, so that added even more dangerous items into the mix! The flame retardants can include wool, cotton treated with boric acid, brominated fire retardants, kevlar, modacrylic fiber, wrapped fiberglass, and rayon treated with silica.

There’s also the Factor That You’re Literally Surrounded By It

The entire idea of a memory foam mattress is to have the foam sink down when you lie on it, engulfing you inside of it, and remembering that position for another time. You’re basically sinking into a mattress and having it surround you. Besides being completely surrounded by these materials, which I was not happy about, there’s also the factor of it being mildly uncomfortable and hot.  I began to yearn for the idea of the type of mattress that I could just lay on top of.

The advantages of Memory Foam Mattress

Before I scare you too much, I do want to point out the positives of memory foam mattresses. They are better than other mattresses in the way that they are newer and under stricter federal regulations. I’d rather sleep on a memory foam mattress than a twenty-year-old mattress without the same federal regulations.

Since 2004, other mattresses are regulated as well, so while they may not have some of the polyurethane components, they sure do have all of the flame retardant components. Plus, memory foam mattresses truly are better for some people’s backs. A 2010 study showed that replacing people’s beds with new mattresses that were medium firm and layered with latex and memory foam, provided a large decrease in shoulder, neck, and back pain.

How Do You Know if You’ll Be Safe?

The best thing to do is inquire with the specific manufacturer. You can also read in-depth comparisons of memory foam mattresses here. Overall, you should pick the mattress that makes you feel the most comfortable, but I do urge you to know what’s in your mattress before you spend a third of your life sleeping on it.

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