Are Memory Foam Mattresses Toxic? 

Purchasing a new mattress can be an overwhelming task. There are a lot of factors to consider from material to structure and chances are, you've heard of memory foam as a top choice.

But here's the big question: Is memory foam safe for you and your family, or does it hide a toxic secret? What is memory foam? What is memory foam made of? And is it safe or toxic? These are common questions among consumers who have never purchased or used this type of mattress and ones we will address today.

While there are many types of mattresses to choose from, organic memory foam mattresses have become increasingly popular due to the way it gradually conforms to the body without the use of petrochemicals. There is only one company that is doing a slow response organic latex foam and that is Essentia!  This structure offers excellent support for all sleepers, and side sleepers especially. So let’s take a deeper look at what memory foam is and how it works.


What is Memory Foam?

The primary materials found in memory foam were developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the 1960’s as part of flight seating. NASA wanted to ensure that the astronauts that were sent into space were comfortable, especially given the extremity of the environment they would be facing. And so, scientists worked to create a material that could quickly mold around the body and relieve stress. The cradling nature of the material also helped to alleviate pressure from the G-forces endured by astronauts during launches. The final product known as viscoelastic was the outcome of extensive research and was successfully created in 1966.

Once developed, viscoelastic remained the property of NASA until the 1980s when its use was expanded to include the development of athletic equipment as well as use in hospitals. Fast forward to 1992 when the first memory foam mattress was introduced to consumers. Since then, these mattresses have steadily gained popularity for their ability to provide superior comfort and support.

Modern memory foams are created using an open-cell structure which reacts to body heat and weight, allowing it to form around the body as you sleep which helps relieve pressure points. And while most memory foam has the same basic chemical composition, the density and layer thickness of the foam gives each mattress its unique feel.

A high-density mattress will last longer than lower-density one which will have a slightly shorter life due to the compression that takes place after repeated use. On average, medium to high-density foams can last eight to ten years while low-density foams will last around four to six years. This is comparable to other mattress materials which last, on average, eight to ten years. Though that timeframe decreases as the person using the mattress ages, Consumer Reports states that anyone over the age of 40 years-old should not sleep on the same mattress longer than seven years.

Many consumers choose memory foam mattresses due to the many benefits these mattresses can provide. As already discussed, one of the most notable benefits is the ability to relieve pressure points. In addition, memory foam mattress can provide better alignment of the spine, and eliminate motion. Finally, memory foam is accommodating to all types of sleepers, side, back, and stomach, which has contributed to its popularity among consumers.

Even with all these benefits, many consumers may still find themselves questioning is memory foam toxic? It’s a fair question given the way memory foam is made.

Is Memory Foam Toxic?

The safety of a memory foam mattress can vary depending on where you purchase it from. Traditionally, memory foam is produced using a number of chemicals and processes. If you have been around a lower quality memory foam before, you may have noticed a distinct smell which is known as off-gassing.

This chemical odor is a result of the chemicals used to produce the mattress. New foams and many other manufactured products experience off-gassing as it is the result of “volatile organic compounds” (VOCs) breaking down. As opposed to being stable, these “volatile” (or unstable) compounds break apart, commonly forming gases hence the term.

Hand pushing into memory foam

In mattresses, the most commonplace to find VOCs is in the foam and adhesives. They can include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), formaldehyde, benzene, methylene chloride, toluene, trichloroethane, naphthalene, perfluorocarbons, and polyols. Many consumers worry about the presence of these chemicals due to the fact that they can cause health problems after prolonged exposure. For example, the most commonly known polyol, polyurethane, is the primary ingredient of most memory foams and is a petroleum-based material that emits volatile organic compounds which can cause respiratory problems and skin irritation.

Formaldehyde, on the other hand, is not typically added to foams but may result as a byproduct of chemical reactions or adhesives. While CFCs can be used as a blowing agent to make foam materials, pollution regulations, known as the Montreal Protocol, have largely restricted its use and other toxic halogens in the United States since the 1990s. Instead, manufacturers can use other gases or pressurized foaming systems.

As you can see, there are a number of elements that could make a memory foam mattress toxic which is why it is important for consumers to be well informed. However, not all memory foam mattresses are created equal. In fact, Essentia natural memory foam mattresses have been tested to promote a clean air environment by not introducing these stimulants to your bedroom and body.

What About CertiPur Foam Mattresses?

You may have heard of CertiPUR foam, which emerged as a response to increasing awareness among smart consumer about the drawbacks of traditional polyurethane foam (polyfoam).

CertiPUR foam is marketed as a certified product designed to be more environmentally friendly and beneficial for sleepers' health. As a result, it's often touted by some mattress brands as a certification that somehow makes the mattress more "eco-friendly", or somehow less toxic to the sleeper. 

In reality, CertiPUR foam is an initiative driven by polyfoam manufacturers who have a vested interest in presenting a more eco-conscious image for their product. While it's true that some foam products labeled as CertiPUR may contain fewer harmful chemicals than others, it's essential to understand that no polyfoam is entirely safe or non-toxic, nor can it be considered genuinely eco-friendly.

While this "certification" does set standard of zero to low for some of the most harmful and talked about chemicals in mattresses such as PBDEs, formaldehyde, ozone depleting substance, mercury, lead, and heavy metals, the testing standards are very low only taking into account the emission for 72 hours. This is versus more rigorous Control Union certifications that test for 7 days or longer.  

What does this mean? While levels may be different depending on the foam, you will still firn harmful chemicals in a CertiPur certified foam such as: 

  • Syrene
  • Benzene
  • Toluene
  • Formaldehyde

Clearly this is not a standard for a truly healthy mattress.

Is Memory Foam Safe?

In reality, all foams, natural or synthetic, will have chemical contents. That's just the reality of making foam. However, a natural foam is obviously much cleaner. So if you are wondering is memory foam safe? The answer is yes, and no, it just depends on the mattress you decide to purchase.

Though a completely chemical free memory foam does not exist, there is one option that is created by Essentia which is a slow response organic latex foam. Essentia's patented Beyond Latex organic foam is the only foam of its kind that is made of certified organic components, offering the benefits of memory foam without the toxins and chemicals that are usually found in memory foam. 

This means you can benefits from the pressure relief that memory foam offers with many of Essentia's added benefits such as active cooling naturally, a clean air environment and more as demonstrated by Essentia's seven key elements for rejuvenating sleep. 

Essentia holds the two most stringent certifications for organic mattresses: 

  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): Essentia has achieved GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) 6.0 factory certification to ensure that its entire supply chain and production processes adhere to proper practices for tracking and managing organic materials. GOTS is the industry-leading standard for textile processing.
  • Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS):  Essentia is a GOLS-certified facility, manufacturing organic finished goods. Every Essentia mattress and pillow is made with >95% certified organic latex. Essentia's production process follows a globally recognized standard for organic rubber latex products. GOLS standard ensures organic processing and manufacturing.

These restrictions include chemical flame retardants and polyurethane. GOLS ensures that a latex mattress is made of 95 percent organic latex and again places restrictions on the other 5 percent of the materials.

Essentia’s Natural latex mattresses are all made in Essentia’s GOLS and GOTS certified organic factory. When searching for natural mattresses, these are the best labels to look out for.

Clearly, there is a lot to consider when it comes to determining the toxicity of a memory foam mattress. But looking for the right labels and certifications can help you find a natural mattress that best suits your needs while providing a safe and comfortable alternative to traditional memory foam mattresses.

Opt for Organic Memory Foam

While there are many types of mattresses to choose from, organic memory foam mattresses have become increasingly popular due to the way it gradually conforms to the body without the use of petrochemicals. There is only one company that is doing a slow response organic latex foam and this is us! So let’s take a deeper look at our memory foam mattresses and how it works.

If you’re still wondering how to choose a memory foam mattress, contact us today and we’ll be happy to help!


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