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Mattress Chemicals to Be on the Look Out For

You would think that any mattress on the market today would be safe. Right? Think again. What is especially disturbing is that we spend many hours every day in close contact with our mattresses. With most people averaging about seven of the recommended eight hours of sleep daily, that’s one third of your life spent on your mattress.

Your mattress needs to be a safe haven for you and your family, not a hideout for bacteria, chemicals, and countless other harmful items. That is why it is important for you to take the time to investigate what goes into your mattress before you bring one into your home.

These are some of the biggest chemical culprits you need to be concerned about when shopping around for your next mattress.

Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs)

Once upon a time, these chemicals where the “go to” choice for flame retardant materials in mattresses. While they’ve been banned in U.S. mattresses since 2004, according to, they can still be found in many mattresses manufactured before the ban went into effect. PBDEs have been linked to a variety of health conditions, specifically related to endocrine health, thyroid health, and more. They are especially harmful to developing children, infants, and fetuses.


Often petroleum based, polyols are binders or bulking agents used in mattresses that can have negative health side effects. Many of the polyols used to make mattresses are actually made from GMO (genetically modified organisms) soy beans. While it may sound like a “greener” product that isn’t necessarily the case.


This is a reactive ingredient that works in combination with polyols and blowing agents to create a flexible foam, often used in mattresses. Not only does it have the possibility of acting as a carcinogenic agent, it is also associated with causing respiratory and dermal sensitization.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

These are common blowing agents used to help make a variety of foam materials commonly found in mattresses. This highly toxic ingredient has been banned in the U.S. since the 90s, but other types of gases and foaming systems have risen to take its place with equally questionable safety parameters.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

Various chemical and organic compounds used in the mattress making process are released into the air long after the mattress makes it into your home. You may experience the effects of these chemicals upon opening chemical-ridden mattresses in the form of off-gassing. That’s the term used to describe the noxious odor released into the air once you open the packaging surrounding your new mattress. It can be quite intense and may cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, and respiratory distress in some.

The long-term effects of exposure to VOCs can be even more alarming, and include things like:

  • Cancer
  • Kidney damage
  • Liver damage
  • Central nervous systems (CNS) damage

Unfortunately, the chemicals remain in your air long after the odors subsides. Sometimes for years or longer.

Other items in your home that may be releasing volatile organic compounds into the air your family breathes include:

  • Furniture
  • Wooden finishes
  • Wallpaper
  • Furniture polish
  • Nail polish remover
  • Carpet glue
  • Furniture glue
  • Candles
  • Cigarettes
  • Paint
  • Children’s toys
  • Electronics
  • Shower curtains
  • Bedding and comforters
  • Wood furniture and wood products

These can be found in mattresses, especially those that use glue and other adhesives to hold the layers together.

How Can You Protect Yourself from These Types of Damaging Chemicals?

The best way to protect your family is to look for mattresses that promise something better. For instance, look for mattresses that have obtained certifications for purity in their ingredients, such as mattresses that contain OEKO-TEX Certified Latex and Global Organic Textile Standard Certified Organic Cotton, like the Latex for Less Mattress.

These certifications are awarded by independent certifying agencies that are well respected around the world for their rigid standards. Mattresses that meet these standards have gone through extensive testing and supply chain investigations down to the raw materials used to make the mattresses, to ensure they do not contain a host of potentially harmful chemicals, dyes, phthalates, heavy metals, etc.

When you buy mattresses that are made with 100 percent all-natural latex, 100 percent organic cotton, and a 100 percent natural wool fire-barrier, you can buy with confidence that you’re not exposing your family to harmful chemicals by bringing a new mattress into your home. You’ll also be delighted to learn you don’t have to deal with the noxious chemical off-gassing that is so common with mattresses that do contain petrochemicals and other harsh ingredients.

Elizabeth Magill

Elizabeth Magill is a professional freelance writer and editor who holds an MBA. Liz specializes in writing about health news, medical conditions, healthy living, small business, career and work, personal finance, and green-living, including news and trending topics in these specialties. Her clients include Healthline, The Motley Fool, GoBanking Rates,, Big Interview, HealthNews, Intuit Small Business Blog, Intuit Health, American News Report,, IFX Medical, and many others. She’s also a published eBook author and ghost writer for various clients in the health, medical, career, small business, and personal finance niches.