Off gassing is a fairly major concern among people interested in purchasing a new mattress. Consumers consider a wide variety of factors when purchasing new mattresses such as, size, comfort, support, durability, lifespan, etc. As consumers become more educated, however, they’re more interested in issues involving the airflow of the mattress, and whether or not off gassing is a concern.
What is Off Gassing?
Off gassing is the reason ventilation is required for painting and other chemical projects performed around the house. The term itself refers to various chemicals being released under normal atmospheric pressure. It’s quite common with building materials, and even new cars. In fact, off gassing is what causes that infamous new car smell. But it isn’t always pleasant, and can, in some cases, be harmful.
Do Latex Mattresses Off Gas?
When it comes to mattresses, off gassing is caused by petrochemicals present in mattresses that are made with synthetic materials.
The mattresses will put off a distinctive chemical smell for a little while. However, not all mattresses have this chemical smell. In fact, natural latex mattresses don’t off gas, and most synthetic and polyurethane (memory foam) mattresses do. It really is as simple as that.
100% natural latex mattresses and organic latex mattresses are the best choice for a good night’s sleep, free from all chemical odors. This is in addition to the many other benefits of sleeping on a natural latex mattress.
What Can You Do to Reduce the Impact of Off Gassing?
Adequate ventilation is an absolute must if you’re trying to diminish the potency of off gassing from mattresses, painting, or anything else. Many manufacturers of synthetic mattresses recommend allowing the mattresses to breathe, outside of their packaging for a few days (or as much as a week depending on your personal sensitivity to chemical odors), in a well-ventilated area, before attempting to sleep on them. This will allow the petrochemicals to be released into the air before you’re trying to sleep on the mattress.
When you’re in the market for a new mattress, consider the materials used in the production of the mattress. It’s not always the obvious things that leap out at you that are the worst offenders when it comes to off gassing. Glue, for instance, is one of the most odorous materials used in mattress manufacturing. Also consider the bed cover, and look for those that are made of natural fibers rather than synthetics.
Take your time, before you buy, and research all of the materials inside of your mattress. Finding a mattress that will produce the fewest possible chemical odors allows you to get a better night’s sleep, from the very beginning. If you find a mattress that’s built for comfort, longevity, and doesn’t off gas, such as a natural latex mattress, then you have a real winner on your hands from the moment it arrives in your home.
Is Off Gassing Toxic?
Off gassing can be toxic. Many mattresses of lesser quality today are constructed with polyurethane foam. The Environmental Protection Agency recognizes this as a toxic substance. Off gassing is where toxic materials break down, and disperse into the air. When you breathe the toxins in, you could experience certain side effects like:
- Trouble breathing
- Allergic reactions
But, can new mattress fumes be toxic? It is possible. The toxicity level will depend on the amount of chemicals used in the manufacturing process of the mattress. And since off gassing symptoms can vary, it's not simple for new mattress owners to identify any one particular symptom they might be experiencing to their new mattress's off gassing.
What Are the Potential Health Risks to Off Gassing?
Many individuals consider their bed safe; however, research suggests the heat from your body may trigger your mattress to release potentially harmful chemicals.
Mattresses can release tiny amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are gaseous chemicals. These VOCs come primarily from the polyurethane in the mattress. However, they can also come from other types of chemicals used in plastics and flame retardants, too. And, the heat from your body seems to unfortunately increase mattress VOC emissions.
VOC exposure might worsen symptoms in individuals with asthma, hypersensitivities, seniors, and children.
Short-term effects from VOC exposure may include:
- Eye, nose, and throat irritation
- Worsening of asthma
Long-term effects from VOC exposure may include an increased risk of:
- Central nervous system damage
- Kidney deterioration
- Liver illness
Many individuals suffer from Environmental sensitivities. Mattresses that are organic, non-blended, and don't off gas are the best option for people with multiple chemical sensitivities.
What Are VOCs?
VOCs are an organic chemical group that at ordinary room temperature have a high vapor pressure. Any one of the chemicals have their own toxicity and potential to cause various health effects. Most latex mattress VOCs come from "styrene butadiene rubber" (a synthetic rubber), which is used in blended latex.
What are the Types of Mattress Chemicals Responsible for Off Gassing?
Typically, the amount of chemicals mattresses emit isn't enough to cause you any harm, and after a brief time period, they dissipate. Many of these chemicals are:
- Found in the adhesive used for keeping the foam layers together
- In a Fire retardant sock that's covering the mattress on the inside
- Used naturally in the mattress manufacturing process
With that said, some types of mattress chemicals that could cause off gassing are:
This is a highly recognizable odor, and the minute you smell it, you'll know it. It has a pickle-like scent and is commonly used in many different manufacturing processes. At room temperature, it becomes a gas, which turns into VOCs. In mattresses, however, these VOC’s are very low.
If you're exposed to formaldehyde, it can lead to various health effects on some people, and the symptom severity all depends on how long you're exposed, and how much you're exposed. Short-term immediate symptoms may include:
- Nose, eye and throat irritation
There are some people that are sensitive to this chemical; therefore, if you do have a reaction from it, these symptoms are those you would most likely experience.
Benzene is among the 20 most commonly used chemicals in the U.S., and is used in materials like:
- And more
It's a flammable and colorless liquid that has a sweet smell to it that quickly evaporates when exposed to air. It's primarily formed from natural processes like volcanoes and forest fires, but most benzene exposure is due to human activities.
By itself, naphthalene is made from crude oil or coal tar, and is created when things burn. However when it's used in mattresses, it's not that strong, and doesn't cause ill effects in human beings in small doses. It's often used in the manufacturing process of the foams' synthetic fibers.
Which Mattresses Can Off Gas the Most?
The mattress types that could typically off gas the most include:
- Memory Foam Mattress
Memory foam mattresses are likely constructed of 5-inches to 6-inches of standard polyurethane foam, with a visco-elastic layer on top. This is an open-celled poly foam that gradually recovers from compression. Both the visco-elastic layer and polyurethane foam will off-gas.
When you smell the odor that usually comes from a memory foam mattress, it's from chemicals used during the manufacturing process. These chemicals in your mattress are possibly harmful to small children and individuals with sensitivities to chemical emissions.
- Synthetic Mattresses
Synthetic mattress foams are constructed with chemicals, too, primarily petroleum-based chemicals, but certain fire-retarding agents as well. These chemicals do emit odors, and could cause possible negative reactions in individuals with chemical sensitivities. Certain chemicals used in manufacturing mattresses haven't been tested on younger kids, or in the amount individuals are exposed to while they sleep on a mattress.
Synthetic latex might emit a stronger smell, either rubber or chemical, because of the various ingredients used during manufacturing. There are odors associated with hybrid beds, which consist of latex mixed with:
- Memory foam
- Comfort layers
- Poly foam cores
- Innerspring/Coil Mattresses
Manufacturers can use a continuous coil system, pocketed coils, or another type of coil. There's an insulator pad between the comfort layers and coils above. Recycled fabric layers or high-density polyurethane foam make this insulating layer. Usually, these comfort layers are what makes coil mattress's feel different from another.
Certain manufacturers use certain non-soy or soy vegetable-based mattress foam in an effort of being more "green." While this definitely is a step in the right direction, due to there only being 20% soy oil in the soy foams, and the rest being petroleum-based, using soy doesn't eliminate off-gassing.
Finally, a quilted layer wraps around the mattress to provide it with a "finished" look. The quilt's "puff" is typically crafted from polyurethane foam; however, even in mattresses with a "natural" label. Innerspring mattresses could be crafted non-off-gassing and natural by using a natural insulator like wool or latex, and/or with a quilt layer and/or cotton comfort layers containing one of the same fillers.
Be cautious as there could be certain mainstream manufacturers that stamp the label "eco" or "natural" on their mattresses, but only have a single natural fiber element to it with chemical compounds in the mattresses' other layers. So, you'll want to do your research carefully.
A polyurethane foam mattress is a type of mixture of memory foam and polyurethane foam, so there's obviously going to be some off-gassing in most cases. When lying on these mattresses, you will end up breathing in the compounds emitted from the polyurethane, but they're not going to harm you. The amount your mattress emits is extremely small, and only gets smaller over time.
Polyurethane foam mattresses have started becoming safer over the years, and many are now CertiPUR-US Certified, meaning the amount of off-gassing is below CertiPUR's standards.
Which Mattresses Off Gas the Least
Now, there are some types of mattresses that don't off-gas at all, or are far less likely to off-gas than other types of mattresses. It's essential you have the knowledge you need because you can't always trust the information given by all salespeople and retailers.
Types of mattresses that off-gas the least include:
- Natural Mattress
A natural or "organic" mattress is crafted with materials containing zero harmful chemicals, meaning you won't experience any off-gassing from them. Organic or natural mattresses are constructed from cotton and wool. They're free from chemicals, and are eco-friendly. These materials are made with no use of chemicals, hormones, or pesticides that you typically find in other types of mattresses.
A latex mattress versus a memory foam mattress is typically healthier for you if it's not synthetic, and totally natural. If it's natural, it means the materials used in the mattress come from rubber trees, and are made with safe and healthy processes. Even if they're not naturally made, and are constructed with petro-chemicals, it's still a lot safer than polyurethane, and might emit very little to no gasses.
Do Latex Mattresses Smell?
When you first buy a 100% natural latex mattress, it may smell slightly, but it won't emit harmful chemicals, and the odor will dissipate quickly.
Can an Organic Mattress Cover Block Off Gassing?
Organic wool, cotton, or latex barrier covers or other types of mattress pads or covers aren't typically enough to totally protect you from gases or toxic chemicals that come from the mattress. The only material known for blocking off-gassing is plastic. But, sadly, most plastic covers add more off-gassing, or chemical exposure, to the situation. A lot of plastic barriers or covers aren't safe. Barrier covers or clothes are ideal for blocking allergens like dust mites, but not for off-gassing.
How to Reduce Mattress Off Gassing
The best way to reduce mattress off gassing is to buy an organic or 100% natural latex mattress. You should also check for certifications like GOLS certification or Oeko-Tex Certification to certify you're receiving 100% organic latex.
If you have a family, there's no doubt many things you'll have to spend money on. It might be hard to justify spending a lot of money on an organic or natural latex mattress. But, investing in an organic or natural latex mattress will ensure your family isn't being exposed to harmful chemicals while they're sleeping.
While you can't protect yourself or your family completely from all exposures, since chemicals are pretty much everywhere, your mattress is a long-term, up-close exposure to toxic chemicals. So, you'll want to take steps to eliminate this exposure as much as you can to assure good health. Purchasing an organic or natural latex mattress is a good start.
Make a Non-Toxic Mattress by PlushBeds Your Priority
The only way of limiting your exposure is verifying your mattress manufacturer has certifications showing all products have been tested by an authoritative laboratory for VOC levels using accepted standards.
These include Eco-institut, GOLS, GOTS, Greenguard Gold, and Oeko-Tex, which are the most highly trusted mattress industry sources. Ensure all certificates are updated, since they're typically only valid for one year, and all parameters test below the suggested safe VOC exposure threshold. With PlushBeds mattresses, you won't have to worry about this.
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