Memory foam mattresses have definitely become incredibly popular in recent years, and they tend to have the absolute highest ratings in terms of comfort, durability, and overall customer satisfaction. One of the few complaints that some people who purchase these mattresses have about them is their smell. The somewhat unpleasant odor that memory foam mattresses can emit is caused by the material that they are made out of, and it can last as long as a month before it begins to go away.
The smell that comes from memory foam is known as “off-gassing,” and it is fairly common among new foams and a number of other manufactured products. Off-gassing occurs when volatile organic compounds break down. These unstable compounds break apart and can form gasses that create a less than pleasant smell. The most common place to find VOCs in mattresses is the foam itself, as well as the adhesives. They can include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), methylene chloride, toluene, naphthalene, and others. And while off-gassing from memory foam can be annoying because of the strong odor, it is not toxic or dangerous at all.
Only a very small percentage of memory foam mattress owners have ever reported problems breathing, nausea, headaches, throat irritation, or asthma. These symptoms stop when the person is no longer exposed to the mattress, and they go away completely when the mattress is aired out. While it may be true that some of the chemicals used in making memory foam mattresses are considered carcinogens, there currently are not any studies that have shown memory foam to be toxic or cancer-causing at all. There are a lot of people, however, that want to minimize their exposure to chemicals and therefore choose alternatives to memory foam.
Each memory foam mattress brand uses different materials as well as methods to make their products. This means that some of these mattresses have bigger problems than others when it comes to off-gassing. A few intensive studies have drawn a direct connection between higher density foams and increased odor complaints. Brands that use foam over 6 lbs. tend to produce the strongest, most unpleasant odors
Most mattress brands tend to limit the amount of information they share with consumers when it comes to how their products are made, hiding behind the guise of “trade secrets.” Studies have shown that this in turn makes consumers less trusting of companies, and there are certainly a number of people who aren’t very happy about the “off-gassing” of memory foam products, such as mattresses and pillows.
Those who are looking for a quality mattress will want to keep an eye out for certification from independent organizations like Certi-PUR, as they independently test mattresses for VOCs as well as a number of other chemicals. And while it’s true that these chemicals might not be particularly dangerous, the odors they produce can be very unpleasant to say the least. Ultimately, it is up to the consumer to do their research before buying anything in particular.
Image : By Johan (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons