Monday, August 27, 2012


*The topic I am posting about today could have material that is offensive or judgmental to some people, and I just want to state that it is not meant to be at all.  This is just our experience and opinion and is in no way a judgement of other peoples choices.

the scene of the "crime"

We had quite the eye-opening experience this past weekend.  We purchased a new bed from Costco, a king size memory foam style mattress made in the USA.  It had a very strong odor when we pulled it out of the box, but we thought at first it might be because of how it had been folded and compacted into the box it cam in.  We slept in the other room on our old bed for about six days while the new mattress was airing out in our bedroom.  Finally on Friday we thought it had aired out enough and that we might be able to sleep on it.  So we made it up and all piled in - to our delight it was very, very comfortable.  But Steve was a little annoyed because the smell was still present, just not quite as strong.

In the morning, Riggs woke us up screaming at about 5:50am, which is completely unusual for him.  He didn't want to nurse at all, and his little cry sounded hoarse, as if his throat was raw and sore.  Steve had a headache and a stuffy nose, I had a sore throat and all I could think was, Oh no, everyone is getting sick!  We all got up and started to go about our day.  Riggs took a long nap (on the new mattress), but when he woke up, he sounded even worse.  His voice just sounded horrible, and he wasn't really vocalizing as much, probably because his throat hurt!  I checked to see if he had a fever, but luckily he didn't.  And he seemed to be acting completely normal other than that.

That night, as we were getting in bed, Steve mentioned that the mattress was smelling pretty strong.  We felt pretty uneasy about sleeping in there, and my head was starting to pound from the strong odor.  I decided to do a google search to see if others had noticed this with memory foam mattresses or with this brand in particular.  What we found was pretty horrifying (and we moved right away to our old bed to sleep for that night).

Studies had been done that showed memory foam mattresses were known to emit as many as 61 different toxic chemicals, many of which are known to cause health symptoms!  The glues and foam needed to make the mattress are all toxic, and because foam is more flammable it requires even more flame retardant than innerspring mattresses.  Formaldehyde is one of the toxic chemicals found in these mattresses, as well as polyurethane, a type of plastic that produces chemicals called VOCs (volatile organic compounds) which outgas into the air.  And although VOC's decrease over time as they outgas, the chemicals sprayed on mattresses for fire retardant only increase their toxicity over time (this is true for innerspring mattresses as well).

The EPC has a page on their website which provides some information about formaldehyde being used in household products.  Here's just a snippet, "It has also been shown to cause cancer in animals and may cause cancer in humans.  Health effects include eye, nose, and throat irritation; wheezing and coughing; fatigue; skin rash; severe allergic reactions. May cause cancer."  The EPC also has a page dedicated to VOCs on their website, which describes in detail the toxic quality of these compounds.  "Many organic compounds are known to cause cancer in animals; some are suspected of causing, or are known to cause, cancer in humans."  And here is some information about the toxicity of fire retardants that are being heavily sprayed on all mattresses sold in the United States (other than those that use wool as a natural fire retardant).  

So my big question is, why are these products being sold without at least some sort of warning label on them about these chemicals which are known to cause cancer?  Thousands of people have reported sore throat, fatigue, chronic headache, bloody nose, swollen red and itchy eyes, and even heart attack-like symptoms just days after purchasing and using memory foam products, like mattresses, toppers and pillows.  How scary!  Steve and I both firmly believe that this is what caused all of our symptoms, as  after returning the mattress yesterday, we are now feeling just fine (including Riggs, whose hoarseness is almost completely gone today).

What frustrates me the most, is the prevalence of all these toxic chemicals in things we are using everyday and the digging we have to do to even find out about it!  It is so irritating and makes me feel uncomfortable bringing anything into the house unless I know, without a doubt, how it was made and what it was made with.  I guess this is just another reason to buy local and handmade items, which is a good thing, but it just saddens me to think of all the people using toxic items out there without having any clue.

We're a bit sad about returning the mattress - it was great to sleep in a king bed for a day as far as size and space goes.  But I guess we'll be saving up our money to buy a safer option, which isn't too bad really.  And we will definitely be purchasing a wool mattress topper for our queen bed, because I found (in my late night "research") that the more inches you put between your bodies and the toxic mattress, the better as far as getting away from the chemicals.


  1. Oh how disgusting! Makes me wonder about my tempur-pedic...though we never noticed a smell, wonder what's leeching into my body...

    1. It's scary isn't it! I guess it's especially bad for babies, which is why we are more worried about it. It just makes me mad that companies can sell things made with such toxic materials! The smell is the chemicals, so maybe that means yours had less! The good news is the bad chemicals in memory foam goes away over time, but we just didn't want to risk it at all since Riggs sleeps with us :(

  2. Whitney! I was looking through YHL archives when I realized that they have an organic bed... I searched for the post where they actually purchase it and it seems to be pretty informative. Right up your alley! (And now I'm super interested too...)

    Anywho, here is the post:

    Great topic you bring up.

    1. Thanks for the additonal info Kat! It's just crazy because it's not something you think about being toxic or "bad for you". I'm glad to have a reference for when we have saved up to buy an organic one.