Is Memory Foam Toxic?

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It’s time to buy a new mattress. You’ve been putting it off, because mattress shopping isn’t always fun. Sometimes it’s a downright chore.

After conducting some research, you’ve found that a memory foam mattress looks to be a fantastic upgrade. After all, they’re supposed to be amazingly comfortable, right?

memory foam allergy

But then, while scrolling down through Google, you see words like “toxic” and “hot” and “health risks.” So, is memory foam safe? Will it make you ill?

In this article, we’ll dispel any myths surrounding, and discuss any possible health risks entailed with a memory foam mattress.

What is Memory Foam?

Everyone has seen those commercials. The ones with a person jumping on the bed next to a glass of wine and the wine doesn’t spill.

They always made a memory foam mattress look so comfortable. But what exactly is memory foam, anyway? What makes this type of mattress so special?

Memory foam beds are made of two main components: a polyurethane memory foam layer and a polyurethane foam core layer. These are then wrapped in some type of fabric, and are treated with a type of flame-proofing to meet with federal safety laws.

Memory foam can also contain extra parts, such as gel or gel-infused foam, latex foam, or padding from wool, polyester, or cotton.

Memory foam and polyurethane foam contains three major parts:

  • The Polyols, which is the bulk or binder ingredient. These are normally made of petroleum-based ingredients, but they can also derive from botanical sources such as castor beans or soy.
  • Secondly, there are the blowing agents, which introduce carbon to develop the foam.
  • Finally, there are the diisocyanates. This is the reactive ingredient, which interacts with the polyols and blowing agent to make the flexible polyurethane foam.

Chemicals Used in Memory Foam

There are many chemicals that are (or have been known to be) used inside memory foam. These include:

  • Formaldehyde.
  • Acetone.
  • Methyl benzene.
  • Methylene chloride.
  • Vinilideine chloride.
  • Methylene dianiline/MDA.
  • Dimethylformamide.

Chemicals that are rarely used (or that have been banned) include:

  • Chlorofluorocarbons (CFSs).
  • Tetrachoroethane.

Is Memory Foam Toxic?

When researching the toxicity of memory foam mattresses, you’ve likely come across the terms VOCs and off-gassing. Both terms refer to the same instance of chemicals breaking down and releasing into the air.

VOCs stands for Volatile Organic Compounds, called such because they are unstable and break down at room temperature, letting out smells as they do.

is memory foam safe

However, most of the health issues associated with these are found in the raw materials as opposed to the finished product.

Once all the ingredients have been mixed into a stabilized product, the VOC release is minimized.

Fear not. If you’re still interested in a memory foam mattress, plant-based foams are known to give off fewer VOCs than those made from synthetic foams.

Memory Foam Health Risks

When narrowing down exactly which chemical is used to make specific mattresses, this can be nearly impossible, since there is no law indicating manufacturing companies need to release their full ingredient list.

They’re considered trade secrets. However, because of laws and restrictions, several of the most harmful chemicals have already been phased out of use.

The percentage of people using memory foam mattresses who experience any type of allergic or negative reaction is actually quite low. However, the symptoms of those people are nose, throat, and eye irritation, as well as asthma irritation or nausea.

If you’re a fairly healthy individual with no previous history of allergies or sensitivities, there should be no reason to expect any type of memory foam allergy.

Memory Foam Smells

Memory foam, when newly out of the package, does have a distinct smell.

It’s a good idea to unpack your new mattress ASAP and leave it to air out in a well-ventilated room for a couple days, before putting it on your box spring and sleeping on it.

Choosing a Mattress

If you’re really concerned about health risks associated with memory foam, but you’d still like to buy one anyhow, make sure to read up on any mattresses you want to buy before purchasing them.

Look at the reviews. Look at what the memory foam of the particular mattress is made out of. Look for ones that are plant-based. Also, look at where the memory foam is developed.

If they’re manufactured in the United States or Europe, then they were made with stricter regulations than some of those made in other regions.

is memory foam toxic

Are Memory Foam Mattresses Hot?

The final issue to consider is: are memory foam mattresses hot?

The answer? It depends. Yes, memory foam can absorb and retain heat more than other styles of mattress, but this depends on a variety of factors.

The density of the foam plays a key part in heat retention. The denser the foam, the less airflow there’ll be, and the warmer you’ll become.

Gel inserts are also a factor. They’ll initially feel cool, but over the night, they’ll warm up and will, in fact, retain heat longer than a normal mattress would.

Here’s a video explaining more on the safety of memory foam mattresses.


Do you have any advice on memory foam health risks?

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