Toxic Mattress Materials
Most mattresses sold today contain some polyurethane foam and many contain specialty foams such as memory foam, which consistently break down and release chemicals. The most common toxic materials used in making a mattress include petrochemicals, polyurethane, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), formaldehyde, antimony trioxide, phthalates, and boric acid. These chemicals are used for the foam fillers, material adhesives, and for water- resistance. Most are used to make the mattress flame retardant, per federal law, causing mattress toxicity to increase.
All these chemicals individually give off their own noxious fumes, commonly referred to as off-gassing. Sleepers may report smelling the fumes when the mattress is first bought, which eventually ceases; however, although the off-gas smell no longer is detectable, toxins are still continuously being released and inhaled by the sleeper.
Studies show that when a person is sleeping on a mattress with such chemicals, the toxins can seep into the body through the skin. This is supported through scientific research that has shown PCDE’s to be found in women’s breast milk in the U.S., a fact that has led many to fear that children are more likely to suffer greater than adults from mattress toxicity. Further, infants and children spend more time sleeping, resulting in an increased amount of exposure time. Compounding the issue, mattresses made for children are not only made with additional chemicals to prevent wetness from destroying a mattress, but are manufactured to prevent the mattress from burning at high degrees.
Researchers are questioning the origin of the increased incidences in pediatric respiratory issues, such as asthma, learning disabilities (specifically Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and lower IQ levels. Some have speculated there is a strong correlation between these issues and the materials used in children’s mattress and bedding items. The CEH recently held a press event concerning the dangers of chemicals and toxicity in nap matts used by daycare centers across the United States.
Additionally concerning is the chemical PVC, which is often used with phthalates to create a softer mattress. Phthalates are known to cause breathing disorders and have links to cancer. There is conflicting research linking PVC to the increase of infant crib deaths; however, research to the affirmative is not being recognized by the government and is understandably a controversial topic.
Another study, utilizing mice, was conducted to measure the effect of breathing the emission (off-gassing) of four types of mattresses on the respiratory system. This study revealed that all mattresses containing synthetic materials caused upper-airways irritation in up to 57% of the breaths measured, and saw decreased air flow by 17-23%. The worst violator was a combination of polyurethane foam and a vinyl cover – the type used in most crib mattresses. On the other hand, the old-fashioned mattress materials (organic cotton padding) actually caused increases in both respiratory rate and tidal volume as opposed to the decreased levels measured with the synthetic replacements. Unfortunately, organic cotton is not readily available for mattress use, thus most manufacturers opt for synthetic
foams to provide comfort in their mattresses.
For Your Health,
Dr. Brandon Chorney