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What is the real risk of mattress offgassing?
March 2, 2007 6:23 AM   Subscribe

What do I really need to know about mattresses and offgassing?

I'm in the process of buying a new mattress, and am getting very confused about the whole "offgassing" issue. There are lots of sites that say one should only buy organic/natural latex mattresses, but those sites all seem to be actually selling such mattresses (they well may believe it to be true, but I suspect they are also biased).

Is there any such thing as an independent, relatively objective article about the safety of mattresses (in particular, memory-foam mattresses)?

I have a two-year old, and am expecting another baby in April. I'm a little alarmed by articles citing all the chemicals that are found in breast milk. I'm realize there's no way to avoid exposure, but if I can make a wise mattress decision, it would make me happy.
posted by Badmichelle to Health & Fitness (2 answers total)
 
The main concern I've heard about mattresses is in relation to brominated flame retardants, and in particular PBDE. I don't know if memory foam products use those.
posted by alms at 7:24 AM on March 2, 2007


Some personal experience and some info. I have a sonno foam mattress (polyurethane & memory foam, not latex) from DWR and the smell when we received it was noticeable for about a month. Offgassing is different though, and I think with most items like this (beds, carpets, paints, etc.), off gassing happens significantly within the first day/week or so, then falls off a lot. I looked into this when painting and carpeting our son's room when he was born. Even with wool rug, low toxin padding below it, and low VOC paints, there's still some offgassing, but not as much. Since it was summer, we kept the windows open for 48hrs after painting and carpeting. I have used the foam bed since being pregnant and have done a lot of nursings there, with no noticeable neurological impact on me or the little one (he's a brilliant 18mo now). That doesn't rule out crazy carcinogens, etc., that will only show up when we're old, but just sayin', no side effects yet. I tend to look at these things from the point of view of what's most important to focus on and in that frame of mind, I was more concerned about installing carbon monoxide detectors than the toxins in my mattress.

What I would recommend, however, is at least getting organic/green mattresses for your kids. They're a lot cheaper than an adult sized mattress to begin with, and you're going to need to get one anyway unless you're planning to co-sleep until the 'big bed' stage. Little growing brains and bodies are more susceptible to toxins so this route makes a lot of sense to me.

And now a digression in the interest of helping a fellow potentially-pregnant woman avoid some discomfort: I hate my memory foam mattress. And I really hated it when pregnant. First off, the whole idea of foam conforming to your body and aligning your spine is great if your body weight is about evenly distributed along your body. Pregnant woman have major heavy zones and my experience was that I sank more where I weighed more, so I was spending every night in an increasingly cupped position that created a lot of soreness over time. It was so bad that when I lay on my side, my lower foot would be up off the mattress because the slope was too sharp for it to rest on.

Second, there's no "help" from this mattress. No feedback or resistance when you want to sit up, or change positions or, god forbid, get out of bed at 3am to pee for the fourth time. Also no help during sex. I never realized how much of a plaything the actual bed is. It's work just to push yourself up on your elbows. Don't even try to get some rhythm going.

So, I'm looking for a new mattress and am likely to go organic at the same time. Mostly because I think it's the right thing to do and also because if there are any health benefits, now is the time in my life (and my one, possibly two, kids' lives) to focus on that. These are the ones I'm considering: Northstar Beds and EcoBedroom. I like that Ecobedroom has one with an innerspring option. But Northstar actually shows some of their organic certificates on the site. Also, Northstar was referenced recently by one of the editors (founders?) of treehugger.com as the mattress he sleeps on, and I've got to think he's done more, smarter research than I have.
posted by cocoagirl at 12:56 PM on March 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


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