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Is Memory Foam Toxic

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Written by: Allana Wass
Read 7 minLast updated on

Memory foam is a very popular material for mattresses and mattress toppers. We know that they are made chemically, not from natural materials. That is why they are very cheap, and cheap does not always mean the best quality. That is why some people might ask: is memory foam toxic? We have gathered all the data that you need to know about whether memory foam is safe. In this article, we will explore them and explain whether you should be concerned.

What is Memory Foam made of?

Memory foam was originally designed and invented by NASA to protect their astronauts since it is a great material for absorbing energy, adapting to the shape of the body, and providing support. It is also a great motion isolator, meaning that it will not redirect movement to the other sides of the mattress, so people sleeping with a partner will not be bothered by the movement. That is why we need to understand what kind of material makes this great layer of comfort.

Memory foam is basically a form of polyurethane foam mixed with other chemicals. All types of foam are compressed when they undergo pressure. However, memory foam is more dense because of the added chemicals. Usually, memory foam is made from polyols, diisocyanates, and blowing agents. 

Polyols are the basis of what makes memory foam. They belong to the alcohol chemical category. They are not toxic as they are organic and nowadays many things are made from them. Diisocyanates are added to polymers to create polyurethane foam. They are generally one of the flame retardants of the memory foam mattresses. According to the American Chemistry Council, Diisocyanates can cause respiratory and skin irritation. [1] Blowing agents help the creation of foams, and nowadays mostly water is used to achieve this.

Is Memory Foam Toxic?

Memory foams might contain chemicals that would cause irritations due to being carcinogenic. Carcinogenic materials are materials attributed with causing cancer. Even though back in the day the creation of memory foam used to be unsupervised, nowadays many authorities and companies look over the process and assess whether they are safe or not.

Potentially Toxic Materials in Memory Foam

There are some common chemicals that are used in memory foams that might contain health threats to humans. Some of them are not used anymore, but for general knowledge, here is all that could threaten us.

  • Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is sometimes created through the manufacturing of foams. Nowadays, it is not that common anymore, but in case a mattress has this, it might cause irritations to the respiratory system and skin. It is also known to be carcinogenic.
  • Methylbenzene. This one naturally exists in crude oil, and might cause respiratory issues if humans are in contact with it on a large scale.
  • Methylene Chloride. This compound used to be a blowing agent, but it is considered to be carcinogenic. That is why it got replaced by water.
  • Chlorofluorocarbons. These compounds were also used as a blowing agent before, but since they were threats to the ozone layer, they were restricted.

Nowadays, many companies use more eco-friendly materials, such as soybean oil instead of materials made from petroleum, which could cause lots of health issues for humans. These memory foams are known to be much safer.

What is Off-gassing?

The off-gassing phase happens when you just open a mattress up, and the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) begin to be released to the air. These gassy substances cause bad smells and are known to be harmful to human lungs. They can also show their effect while cutting a memory foam mattress. Since these materials can be stored in the human body and threaten our health, it is recommended not to use them in mattresses. The production of memory foams using these materials have been restricted in many companies, however, it is important to take note of the companies that abide by the safety laws.

Is Memory Foam Safe?

The creation of memory foam used to be generally unsupervised, and that is why they were considered to cause health problems. However, nowadays there are companies that certify the safety of the way memory foam mattresses are created by measuring the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other toxic materials in them. These certifications include OKEO-TEX and GreenGuard Gold. 

Even though in the past, the use of harmful compounds and substances were common, nowadays, all the reputable companies that produce memory foam mattresses follow the safety measurements, such as this list of the best memory foam mattresses in Australia. Remember that taking care of your mattress will most definitely have important effects in preventing health concerns.

F.A.Q.

Should I be concerned with memory foam mattresses?

You don’t necessarily have to be worried about all memory foam mattresses. Some companies are regulated by safety certifications and the use of harmful material in their mattresses is restricted.

Can you prevent the harsh effect of off-gassing?

Yes, you can ventilate the room where you want to unbox your mattress and wait for some time for the bad odors to go away.

Conclusion

In the past, when NASA had just begun using memory foam, many harmful substances were used in the manufacturing process of it. Nowadays, many of those materials are recognized and their use is restricted. Likewise, the manufacturing process of memory foams also used to be unsupervised, which made companies unaware of the health threats. Nowadays, many reputable companies are supervised by certification companies such as GreenGuard Gold that ensure the mattress has no harmful or toxic materials and are produced without using volatile organic compounds. That is why you don’t have to be concerned about the quality of all memory foam mattresses. 

Thank you for reading this article, and hope it has provided you with useful information to make a choice. Feel free to share your thoughts and experience with us in the comments.

References:

  1. Fast Facts and Frequently asked questions about diisocyanates. Retrieved from https://www.americanchemistry.com/industry-groups/diisocyanates-dii/fast-facts-and-frequently-asked-questions

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