No Thanks for the Memories: Why you Should Forget Memory Foam
Memory foam mattresses are the expensive new alternatives in the mattress marketplace.
They’re touted as providing unprecedented support and comfort. But after I
looked into the chemicals coming out of these space-age materials, I felt
anything but comfortable.
Memory foam was invented for NASA in the 1960s. It’s a type of viscoelastic plastic,
made from polyurethane. New mattresses can have a fairly strong, disagreeable
odor, which is due—you guessed it— to outgassing of chemicals. According to
some estimates, more than 60 chemicals may be released by these products.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and known toxins like acetone (found in nail
polish remover), and toluene, are among these chemicals.
Now, I should point out that no one has proven that modern mattresses cause illness.
But that probably has more to do with the difficulty of studying the question
than the inherent safety of these products. It all comes down to dosage. With
any potential poison, there is a minimum concentration at which the substance
becomes toxic. Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult to assess how much
exposure to these chemicals occurs in the home. The matter is further
complicated by the fact that everyone is different. What causes disease in one
person may be tolerable to another.
Nevertheless, when you consider that we spend up to a third of our lives sleeping—which means
we spend a third of our lives lying on mattresses and breathing whatever
chemicals may be outgassing from those mattresses—it becomes a little
distressing to know that you’re being exposed to potentially harmful chemicals