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However, many people are still reluctant to pick it up. They are all hesitant because of one concern - Is memory foam toxic? And we completely understand the concern! It is essential to have a mattress that balances out comfort with health and safety. Let us dig more into this mattress and know whether it is the perfect match for you!
Memory foam is a type of polyurethane that sinks under pressure and contours nicely around the body. But what makes it different from polyurethane foam is the added chemicals. They add to its viscosity and elasticity, hence gaining the name viscoelastic foam.
The foam can be stretched and bumped into different shapes with added pressure. However, the foam returns to its original form when the pressure is released. So owing to these attributes, memory foam is excellent at absorbing pressure and providing relief.
The memory foam came into existence in the 1960s, thanks to NASA! They initially developed it to cushion rockets against potential crashes and vibrations. But after a while, patients started using the foam to prevent bedsores. It was a relief when they were bed-ridden or suggested bedrest for a long time. However, it was only in the 1990s that TempurPedic developed the first-ever memory foam mattress.
Since it is affected and molded by heat, it easily takes your body shape. Once laid, it provides instant relief against back or hip pain. Since it can fit against any weight, all body shapes can find comfort in it.
It is also perfect for couples sharing the same bed as it has little motion transfer. The more recent memory foam mattresses reduce heat retention with effortless movement on the bed.
The specific ingredients used for each memory foam differ according to the companies. But some common memory foam material remains the same. They are:
Most memory foam mattresses are made using ingredients that are the byproduct of petroleum. But, as additional research has started appearing, the manufacturers too are becoming aware of the problems. They are now adopting safer alternatives that won’t flag their mattresses as harmful or toxic.
Companies have incorporated green materials like soybean oil instead of traditionally used petrochemicals. These alternatives tend to have a lower level of toxic substances, which are better for the health.
Companies initially used to make memory foams using highly toxic chemicals. They were highly reactive and could cause potential damages to body parts. For instance, TDI can cause cancer, while diisocyanates can induce mouth, nose, and eyes irritation. Many other materials can cause similar repercussions.
Hence, manufacturers also shifted their production materials when the research started coming to light. Now almost all memory foam mattresses are made without chemicals. And if they do use some while manufacturing, they’re stabilized by the time they reach you.
No company has ever outrightly declared the ingredients they use to make the mattresses. This is because it is a secret blend they wish to keep away from competitors. Despite their move to remove harmful chemicals, they still use some.
However, they voluntarily agree to inspections by accredited third-party organizations. These organizations check the foam for any harmful chemicals. The Federal Trade Commission is one such organization that has cracked down on several manufacturers who made false claims on their products.
As of January 2022, every single Nectar mattress has been made 100% carbon neutral. There is no presence of the material in the mattress, and it has been eliminated from all production stages.
Nectar understands the environmental damage and especially your health because of Polyurethanes, a byproduct of carbon production. This material and other fossil fuels are amongst the biggest contributors to depreciating climate health and sustainability. Hence, Nectar wishes to do its own little part in reducing any presence of such materials.
Nectar has collaborated with the sustainability experts from ClimatePartner to incorporate their knowledge into producing the best mattresses ever possible. Their guidance helped in eliminating the carbon footprint produced by the mattress starting right from the production to the delivery. Nectar even condemns carbon from all walks of life by supporting environmental projects in the Amazon rainforest and USA.
Other than the materials mentioned above, historically, there were other harmful materials commonly used in memory foam mattresses. Some of them include:
Methyl benzene is a petroleum byproduct commonly used to construct polyurethane. According to the World Health Organization, it is a carcinogen.
Acetone is not an ingredient used to make the mattress. Instead, it is the chemical used to clean the labs and equipment where it is manufactured. So, some traces of it appear on the memory foam. High exposure to this chemical can cause headaches, nausea, itchiness, or burning in the eyes.
It is a preservative generally used as an adhesive in a memory foam mattress. It was responsible for causing nose, throat, or skin infection. Fortunately, the manufacturers no longer use it as a material for making them.
Dimethylformamide is a solvent mainly used for creating chemical reactions. It is not used directly but can still cause issues.
The companies previously used them as a blowing agent in the manufacturing process. But since its effect on ozone depletion is exceptionally high, it has been discontinued.
As stated by the law, every mattress should have a fire barrier. Thus, the companies used Flame Retardants and regular chemicals while manufacturing.
The most commonly used one is Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). This chemical has been deemed the leading cause of obesity, cancer, infertility, and developmental brain disorders. It has also been known to cause neurodevelopmental disorders.
Many manufacturers have discovered that buyers are becoming aware of the threats presented by these materials. And while many of them have started using other materials, regulation of others is quite hard. So, some flame retardants may have harmful chemicals in them.
So, to avoid exposure to such chemicals, you can keep a lookout for the certifications provided. Be sure to check the flame retardants used. It can be anything like Kevlar, wool, or rayon treated with silica.
Off-gassing is a way through which you can gauge the chemicals used in your memory foam. Off-gassing mattress smell occurs when the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are released after unboxing a new mattress. The scent is quite pungent and can fill your room with a foul odor.
They are the unavoidable byproduct of polyurethane foams, even those using green materials while manufacturing. The strength of the smell depends on the number of harmful chemicals used, as with the case of low-quality mattresses.
Besides spewing awful smells in the air, it is also responsible for eye, nose, and throat irritation. Although they do go away in a couple of days, bearing it for that long can be very hard. So, instead of opening it in your bedroom or a closed room, open it in a well-ventilated one. Let the gas leave the foam entirely, and then bring it to your room.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) retains no authority in regulating these VOCs in household products. However, you can look for third-party certifications that clear the organization if their mattress is within the safe VOC limit. CertiPUR-US, OEKO-TEX, or GREENGUARD Gold are the most common certification organizations.
There has been a positive shift in people regarding memory foam mattresses, as one can understand through the growing numbers. But you cannot buy one blindly. New memory foams are generally safer to use, given their self-regulation. So, while choosing a memory foam, keep their ingredients, VOCs, and other chemicals in mind. Also, look out for legit certifications.
These regulations and certifications are updated regularly as the side effects of different chemicals continue to come out. So, the older the mattress, the more likely chance that it has chemicals that are now restricted or banned. In contrast, new beds are updated with all new regulations and are relatively safer to use.
Similarly, cheap memory foam mattresses can be toxic due to their countries’ lax regulations. It will require a lot of trial and error before you find a mattress that suits your needs perfectly. You might have to spend days and money, but in the end, you’ll have a mattress that gives you pressure relief without harming you in any other way.
But one cannot wholly rely on these mattresses as some components might still prove allergic to your health. So, at last, it’ll boil down to whether you’re aware of what allergies you have and whether the mattress is an instigator of it.
They can bother you if you’re sensitive to smells or suffer from respiratory issues. If you wish to avoid memory foam altogether, the market is full of better and greener alternatives. Natural latex is the most popular one, made from the sap of rubber trees. The environment it creates is easier to breathe in. It is even more durable and bouncier than its alternatives.
As we understand, memory foam mattresses are now safer to use than ever before. Heavy self-regulation to appeal to consumers and certifications has created a market with better mattresses. So, it is better to check every aspect before making a decision! But as stated, trusting blindly might create an issue for you.