The truth about Polyurethane Memory Foam Mattresses!

Memory foam is polyurethane with additional chemicals increasing its viscosity and density. It is often referred to as “visco-elastic” polyurethane foam, or low-resilience polyurethane foam.

Higher-density memory foam softens in reaction to body heat, allowing it to mold to a warm body in a few minutes. A lower-density memory foam is pressure-sensitive and molds quickly to the shape of a body pressing against it, returning to its original shape once the pressure is removed.

Components used for the production of polyurethane memory foams Components researched: isocynates; methylene chloride, 1,1,1-trichloroethane; acetone; benzene; ethylene oxide; formaldehyde

When new, some memory foams give off a distinct chemical odor, which many people find unpleasant and some say is akin to the smell of paint. This odor decreases with airing, but some remain sensitive. Emissions from memory foam mattresses may cause more respiratory irritation than other mattresses. Memory foam, like other polyurethane products, can be combustible. State and US Federal Laws have been enacted in the USA to require that all bedding, including memory foam items, be resistant to ignition from an open flame such as a candle or cigarette lighter. New bedding laws that went into effect in 2010 change the Cal-117 Bulletin for FR testing. There is concern that high levels of the fire retardant PBDE, commonly used in memory foam, could cause health problems for users.

Allergic Reactions
  • Since your body is exposed to the chemicals in a mattress for at least eight hours per day, even a mild allergy to the chemicals in the mattress can lead to a reaction. Some reactions to mattress chemicals include hives, swollen lips, swollen eyes, rashes, flu-like symptoms, difficulty breathing and sinus infections. If these symptoms have corresponded with the recent purchase of a mattress, try to store the mattress for a week and sleep on an air mattress. If the symptoms go away, the mattress may have caused the problem.
Heart Problems
  • If you have experienced heart troubles in the past, avoid using a polyurethane mattress. Some users have experienced heart-related issues after using the bed only a short while. These symptoms include falsely feeling like a heart attack is coming, irregular heartbeat and a rapid pulse.
  • There are no direct connections noted between an actual heart attack and a polyurethane mattress, but you can reduce these symptoms by removing the mattress if you are experiencing them.
Aches and Pains
  • The exposure to polyurethane mattresses has caused aches and pain for some users. This exposure has caused both mild and extremely pounding headaches. Other users have experienced achy joints and bones along with muscle weakness after using the beds.
  • One person also experienced a case of an aching kidney along with sore joints. Since many things can cause aches and pains, visit a doctor to rule out all potential causes.
Other Dangers
  • These mattresses may also cause dizziness, ringing ears, swollen lymph nodes, fever, vomiting and fatigue. If you detect a pungent, chemical odor from a mattress, get rid of it or trade it in for a more natural mattress like a latex mattress.
Mattress Exposure
  • A lot of time is spent in bed. Infants and toddlers may spend up to 14 hours a day sleeping and playing in a crib. Adults may spend eight hours a day sleeping. You may not be aware of the chemical exposure given by the mattress. Not only is the time spent in bed a contributing factor but also the fact that your face may be on or very near the mattress. There are no government regulations controlling the chemicals used in creating the mattress, and a polyurethane mattress may contain more than just polyurethane.
  • Polyurethane foam is a highly flammable material. Polyurethane burns very quickly once ignited. As such, it generates high heat and consumes a lot of oxygen in a short period of time. In small spaces, this may pose the risk of suffocation to room occupants who may be trapped in the room. Flame-retardants must be used on polyurethane mattresses. This adds more chemicals to the mattress, contributing to further possible toxic exposure.
  • Dust mites can live in your polyurethane mattress, multiplying into a colony of tens of thousands of unwanted guests, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. While dust mites do not carry any disease, they live off of dead skin and hair cells left in the bed. These mites are a leading cause of allergic reactions in the home, including asthmatic attacks in children and elderly individuals. The mites’ droppings are the culprits, causing allergies to flare up because of a protein in the feces that many humans are allergic to.
Government Regulations
  • There are few regulations when it comes to the creation of polyurethane mattresses. The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a ruling in 2006 regarding flammability standards. Under the Flammable Fabrics Act, all mattresses must comply with performance requirements: Namely, the fabric must reduce and slow the growth rate of a fire. The Act does not regulate the chemicals used to achieve this.
  • Polyurethane foam absorbs and stores body heat. Trying to sleep on top of a slab of foam during warm summers can make for a hot and uncomfortable night. Memory foam also may eventually lose its ability to spring back to its original shape, causing depressed areas in the mattress.
  • A mattress constructed of polyurethane layers can give off chemical odors and fumes. This is especially pronounced with some memory foam mattresses. Some people may simply find the odor objectionable, while others may become ill with prolonged exposure.
  • Cheaper polyurethane mattresses can gradually disintegrate and lose their quality of support as they age. Inexpensive models without memory foam may be light and insubstantial with no edge support, skittering around as pressure is put on one spot.