Foam mattresses may release toxic chemicals, says new study
A study published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal suggests that the level of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in polyurethane mattresses - and which are found in numerous common household products, including perfume and paint - could be harmful.
How harmful are VOCs?
VOCs can inflame the eyes, nose and throat and over-exposure to these toxins has been linked to cancer.
There is also some evidence VOCs can trigger asthma and raise the risk of heart disease.
More toxins release during sleep
Research found that the levels of VOCs in mattresses can be particularly harmful at night, due to them warming up when people are sleeping and causing more toxins to be released.
People are also likely to inhale more during sleep, possibly due to poor ventilation and the close proximity of their nose and mouth to the materials that emit the compounds, explains author Professor Yael Dubowski.
Prof Dubowski told The Sun, "The mattresses released more VOCs when temperature was elevated to simulate body heat."
Higher risk for children
In particular, this study highlighted a cause for concern if infants and children were breathing in these toxins.
Prof Dubowski further explains that “for infants and young children, inhalation of some compounds - for example, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and benzene - could reach levels of concern."
"Under sleeping conditions, VOC emissions increased significantly. Elevated heat seems to be the major contributor to the enhanced emissions, compared to elevated relative humidity and CO2 concentration.
"Exposure levels estimated for a child or infant indicate sleeping can be a significant contributor to VOC exposure, yielding concerning exposure levels for a few compounds."
However, the team who conducted the research explains that currently, there is no evidence of adverse health effects from chronic, low-level exposure to VOCs.