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August 2013

Is memory foam safe?

There are a number of sites warning of memory foam and health risks with certain chemicals used in their manufacture. With most man-made materials there are a number of synthetic materials many of which will be present in your home and as always we want to provide you with the facts to make an informed decision. So is memory foam really safe?

VASCO 60

Man-made foams, not too dissimilar to memory foam, can be found in a whole host of household products. From sofas, cushion fillings, seat fillings and more.  This is in part due to the variety of densities, firmnesses and sizes that can be created. They are relatively resilient when covered and are lightweight. These foams are made from a plethora of synthetic compounds and chemicals which in the minute amounts present are classed as harmless. Is memory foam any different though? Is it safe or hazardous?

There are chemicals used in foam which have been a hotly debated subject in relation to safety and chemical volatility. Especially when they are present in a mattress. So should you be worried or rush to the bin with your memory foam mattress?

We’re not sure that some of the online concerns about memory foam are as serious as some writers claim. The evidence seems to be a bit stark. Given that foams have been used and approved for decades in the UK and memory foam is not that dissimilar in its manufacture method. A number of the claims single out specific chemicals that are toxic to humans.

Memory foam safe

However, these toxicity claims are when these chemicals are used in far greater volumes that foam manufacture. When found in high levels it’s true these chemicals can be highly toxic. However, the amounts used in foams are very low in some cases which obviously reduces the risk. A number of the online claims give no reference to the percentage or volume of the chemicals used in foam production, which really are needed to make a fair assessment.

It’s a tricky balancing act given the manufacturers won’t give the exact quantities and measurements.  It’s a bit of a trade secret with the different blends to make foams which are incredibly frustrating for you the customer. The following are frequently cited.

What chemicals are in memory foam?

The following chemicals are frequently cited:

  • Acetone
  • Dimethylformamide
  • Methylene diphenyl diisocyanate
  • Methyl chloroform
  • Methylenedianiline
  • Vinilideine chloride
  • Trichloroethane

An excellent resource for a more detailed explanation can be found here on the exacting contents of some types of memory foam.  There is a class lawsuit in the USA being brought against Tempur for the effects of off-gassing which has yet to be decided on in a court of law. Off-gassing, however, is a process found with a variety of household furnishings from paint to sofas. We have written more extensively here about off-gassing and why ventilation is the answer.

With everything, you need to be careful to measure up the risks, the chances of those risks affecting you when making decisions.  If you are overly concerned we would always advise a more natural material for your mattress rather than a man-made foam.

Summary

Our position is that Memory Foam has been around for over 20 years and whilst there are complaints about side effects from some of the chemicals off-gassings the majority of users report no complaints. The same chemicals are present in car seats, sofas, household plastics etc. If you are concerned then our advice would be to opt for a natural pocket sprung mattress or a natural latex bed, but there are price considerations. For further information of off-gassing please follow this link for a detailed account so you can make your own mind up.

For a further review of Memory Foams structure here is a link to one example of a data sheet for the more scientific of our viewers!

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