Forbes Nutrional Services

New Mattresses and Off-gassing

42-16958624My husband and I bought a new Serta mattress earlier this week, a replacement under warranty for our former Serta mattress that behaved more like a papasan chair.  While researching which mattress would be the best replacement, I came across all kinds of info on new mattresses and off-gassing of harmful chemicals from the foam (especially memory foam, apparently) and fire retardants.  There are all kinds of opinions and scary stories out there ranging from everything from multiple chemical sensitivities to SIDS.

I try to not be an alarmist, but I must admit that reading this info made me wary of our new and exciting purchase – especially with the recent law mandating that all  new mattresses be doused in fire retardants during manufacturing, unless you can get your doctor to write a prescription for a fire retardant-free mattress.  I started wondering if I should just forget about the Serta and opt for an all-natural, foam-free mattress.  However, I could feel my Filipino ancestors shaming me from beyond the grave for even thinking of questioning the benefit of a FREE brand new mattress.  (Mind you, I am not making ethnic generalizations – my Filipino grandma once haggled so intensely over a 25 cent item at a flea market that the vendor ended up just giving it to her for free.  Getting free stuff runs in my genes and I am sure she is not the first one to inherit it.)

I decided to proceed with the Serta replacement and took the following precautions to make our slumber as non-toxic as possible:

  1. First and foremost, I took the plastic wrapping off the mattress as soon as we got home and opened the window in our bedroom.  I’m in Iowa and it is still relatively freezing so I closed the door to the bedroom while the window was open.  We also live on a farm so I wasn’t about to leave the mattress outside as temptation for neighborhood mice and raccoons.  We brought the mattress home in the early afternoon and I left the window open until about an hour before bedtime.  Some websites said to do this for 24 hours, since the first 24 hours is the time of the most off-gassing, but we were too impatient.
  2. I invited a friend over and we both put on clean socks and walked all over the mattress (with the window still open).  I read about this online – apparently walking on the bed squeezes the air out of the foam and draws new air in, which accelerates the rate of off-gassing and gets the chemicals out of the mattress and into the air.
  3. I put all the plants in the house in the bedroom for 24 hours.  NASA has done studies on using house plants to purify the air in space shuttles so I figure they’re good enough for me and my mattress.  Fast growing plants such as spider plants are especially good at purifying VOC’s (Volatile Organic Chemicals) out of the air.  My husband thought our bedroom looked like Jurassic Park but that’s what he gets for marrying a crazy nutritionist.

I must admit that I have no chemical sensitivities or serious health concerns, so if you are someone who does, the above three precautions may not be enough for you and  you may need to look into chemical free bedding.  However, my husband and I love our new mattress and I feel good knowing that the surge in off-gassing that occurs with brand new mattresses happened in a controlled manner instead of into us while we’re dreaming!

March 18, 2009   16 Comments