Why Does Your Memory Foam Mattress Smell Bad

In Mattress 101

March 14, 2014
It’s a common scenario—a consumer gets excited when they purchase a comfortable memory foam mattress at the store and look forward to when it gets delivered. However, during the process of setting up the mattress, the consumer is surprised to find a chemical odor emitting from the new mattress. Some people are so sensitive to the smell that they experience headaches, nausea and irritation in the eyes, nose and throat. So why does your memory foam mattress smell bad?
Memory Foam Mattress Materials
Memory foam was first invented for the aerospace industry as a potential cushioning material in the seats to off-set the G force for astronauts during lift off. It was not used in the space capsules, however, because it was too toxic. Today, it can be found in everything from office furniture, sofas, car seats, pillows and mattresses. Such mattresses are made up of a mixture of different materials—foam, fabric and more. These materials are synthetic and are created from several different kinds of chemicals. Some synthetic materials emit gasses and odor as they degrade, and this process is known as off-gassing. The odor partly comes from some of the chemicals in the material as they start the long, slow process of breaking down.
Other odors detected in memory foam come from chemicals used to treat the mattress for flame resistance. All mattresses made in the United States must meet a certain requirement for flammability and that includes memory foam mattresses. Many manufacturers spray a chemical cocktail of flame retardants onto the material used to make the foam mattress. The result is a mixture of chemicals reacting to the air and to each other, creating gasses that smell.
Are the Odors Harmful?
There has only been limited research done on Memory foam odors and any connection with the human body. Officials state that noxious chemicals and potentially toxic fumes from Memory foam aren’t enough to cause harm. However, preliminary evidence shows a strong link between off-gassing and toxins getting into the body via the lungs and the skin.
From skin irritation, headaches and nausea to dizziness and asthma attacks, many consumers are reporting health issues after exposure to the odors of a foam mattress. Although the off-gassing is within the acceptable levels set by the government regulatory agencies, it’s hard to argue with people’s personal experiences.
Other studies that examine how toxins affect certain sensitive groups may shed some light on how mattress off-gassing might also cause harm to certain sensitive groups. Since infants, children and pregnant women are particularly affected by environmental toxins found in other products, there must be more research to see if Memory foam toxins also have the potential for harm. If you are looking to purchase a memory foam mattress, give us a call first. Our beds are not only more comfortable, more supportive and last longer, but they do not off gas and are a safe, non-toxic alternative to foam-based mattresses.