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Chemical Smell From Memory Foam

by Melissa Ching February 03, 2015

Chemical Smell From Memory Foam

      Picture accredited to Sira Hanchana


Why Does My Memory Foam Mattress or Pillow Have A Chemical Smell? Is It Toxic?

As more and more of us are becoming aware of toxic elements around us, we have begun to worry about the impact of chemicals which may have gone unnoticed before such as the chemical smell from certain products when we first open them. Your memory foam pillow or mattress can release a smell when volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) break down. This is also known as off-gassing. Some have attributed this to allergic reactions, breathing issues and toxin buildup. In an article by Hannah Wallace called "Should You Ditch Your Chemical Mattress?" a couple had to return their just bought memory foam mattress due to nausea, and an asthma attack in the middle of the night! 

What About Other Mattresses?

It's important to note that memory foam mattresses aren't the only kind of mattresses that emit VOCs.

In Hannah's article, she says:  

Since the mid- to late '60s, most mattresses have been made of polyurethane foam, a petroleum-based material that emits volatile organic compounds that can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation. Formaldehyde, which is used to make one of the adhesives that hold mattresses together, has been linked to asthma, allergies, and lung, nose, and throat cancers. And then there are cotton pesticides and flame-retardant chemicals, which can cause cancer and nervous-system disorders. In 2005, Walter Bader, owner of the "green mattress" company Lifekind and author of the book Toxic Bedrooms, sent several mattresses to an Atlanta-based lab. A memory-foam model was found to emit 61 chemicals, including the carcinogens benzene and naphthalene.

Does This Mean That VOCs Are Going To Make Me Sick In The Long-Run?

It has been hard to study the effects of VOCs because it's nearly impossible to track its long-term effects. The level of exposure to the chemicals is the key as to whether or not it will eventually make people sick, but the data for this kind of study just isn't there. 

Photo accredited to Ray

Because of this and the fact that all conventional mattresses sold in the United States are doused by flame-retardant chemicals to meet the requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Commission to resist 30 minutes of flame exposure, many people are choosing to go down the organic path. Although green bedding may be more expensive than conventional ones, many are seeing the benefits of going organic, especially those who have allergies or are sensitive to chemicals. For others, it's knowing that they aren't spending 1/3 of their lives sleeping on something that has been exposed to chemicals that gives them the peace of mind to sleep well at night.

What Are The Alternative Pillows to Memory Foam?

If the thought of what the long-term impact of sleeping on a bed of chemicals are scares you, there are plenty of options out there such as organic mattresses that use wool as a fire deterrent or even ones made from soy. For pillows, we are proud to recommend our ComfySleep pillows which are made from all organic materials (except the zipper), and are completely adjustable and moldable to give you the perfect level of neck support, and are available in a variety of sizes. If a buckwheat pillow isn't what you're looking for, there are of course other organic pillows out there which you may find to your liking such as cotton, millet, down or water. Just be sure to check that the casing is also made from an organic material if you would like a completely chemical free pillow.





Melissa Ching
Melissa Ching

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