On average, Americans spend almost nine hours a day sleeping – a huge amount of time. When you also factor in time just relaxing in bed, maybe reading or scrolling on a phone, it adds up to a significant portion of our lives.

But most mattresses contain and release chemicals that contaminate the air in our homes – and expose us to those chemicals and numerous health harms.

The problems with most mattresses

Manufacturers aren’t required to disclose all the materials used in their mattresses. While the inner filling, often made with polyurethane foam, is typically listed on the tag, there is no requirement to disclose the specific type of flame retardant used.

So consumers may be unsure of what’s in their mattresses. It’s likely that some of the chemicals can be harmful to health and the environment, including:

Volatile organic compounds

The polyurethane foam in many mattresses emits potentially harmful volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, sometimes for years. Exposure to some VOCs can cause respiratory irritation, trigger asthma symptoms and, over the long term, increase the risk of cancer.

“Memory foam” may sound better, but it’s just another type of polyurethane foam. It’s typically made with a small percentage of soybean or castor oil mixed with industrial chemicals, which emit VOCs. More chemicals are added for density and “feel.” “Plant based” foam is also composed mostly of polyurethane.

Solvent-based glue often binds the layers of a mattress, and it too releases VOCs.

Undisclosed fragrances

Mattresses often release “fragrance,” a mystery blend of any of more than thousands of chemicals. It’s used to camouflage odors created during production. Added fragrance can cause allergic reactions and sometimes contain hormone-disrupting phthalates.

Flame retardants

Some states have begun to ban chemical flame retardants because of the potential harm they pose to reproductive and nervous systems. But mattresses treated with harmful flame retardants, like antimony, a cancer-causing heavy metal, can still be purchased in many places.

Unlike VOCs, flame retardants can’t be aired out of a product. They leach slowly over time, making them a more persistent problem in the long run.

Fiberglass is sometimes used as a flame retardant. Exposure to fiberglass could cause rashes, respiratory irritation and even property damage.

California may soon ban fiberglass and flame retardants from mattresses and upholstered furniture, as well as prohibit upholsterers from using fiberglass to repair or reupholster mattresses and furniture.

PVC or vinyl

These are used in mattress protectors and in crib mattress covers. PVC can contain phthalatesand additives, which can emit dangerous VOCs. Vinyl also contains phthalates, which can disrupt the hormone system and lead to asthma.

Read full article here.

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