Polyurethane mattresses -- what's all the fuss?
September 28, 2013 7:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to figure out if there's anything to worry about putting my kid on a polyurethane mattress.

We're looking into a twin mattress for our 5 year old. A reputable local company has lower end models with polyurethane foam around the coils (not memory foam). They also sell cotton mattresses with coils and latex futon-style mattresses. These are much more expensive.

A google search for polyurethane mattresses comes up with lots and lots of results talking about how they "outgas," and this outgassing can be toxic. There are several pages talking about how you shouldn't buy them for kids, especially little kids. That said, the concerns expressed don't seem to talk about science or studies showing that there's any harm there.

Are there any real dangers there? Or is this a misreading of something that isn't really a concern? What kinds of problems might arise if you actually use one? Would you put your kids on one?
posted by rouftop to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is your kid sensitive to the outgassing of polyurethane? If not, don't worry about it. If so, do worry about it. If you don't want to find out the hard way, use some other material.
posted by jrockway at 10:20 PM on September 28, 2013

I don't know about mattresses, but I keep birds and outgassing of carpets, upholstery fabrics, etc can kill a pet bird in minutes to hours.

Now, if I had a child and I knew this, I'm darned if I'd put my child to sleep on any mattress that's made of a material that has been investigated for outgassing. The child is much bigger than a bird, but long-term body-to-mattress contact for several hours a day doesn't sound to me like it's worth the risk. The outgassing of carpets involves insecticides, fungicides and formaldehyde - nothing I want my kid sleeping on.

I'd check into the outgassing research on any new mattress you're buying anyway - why buy a problem?
posted by aryma at 12:57 AM on September 29, 2013

When I google "study polyurethane outgas" this government funded study from 2005 is on the first page of results and talks about the toxicity of polyurethane foam.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 3:25 AM on September 29, 2013

Response by poster: PorcineWithMe, that study specifically talks about how a particular non-polyurethane product was evaluated and discarded in favor of polyurethane... for use in nuclear warheads. Not quite what I'm looking for, though it's fascinating to read about the environmental concerns for people working near the weapon!
posted by rouftop at 8:07 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Last time I was pregnant there was a lot of hand-waving on maternity boards about toxic gases from foam mattresses causing SIDS. I called up the SIDS research unit at, iirc, our local university. They said (with what I interpreted as slight consternation from having to explain this more than a few times) that foam mattresses definitely don't cause SIDS. I didn't explore further and the babies who slept on that mattress are fine.
posted by lakeroon at 5:44 PM on September 29, 2013

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