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The unpleasant truth
about foam

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Foam, foam everywhere

The foams used in mattresses are man-made, mostly derived from petroleum. You see these in forms like ‘polyurethane foam’, ‘base foam’, ‘memory foam’, ‘visco-elastic foam’, ‘gel-memory foam’ or other names. The only other distinctive foam is latex, which can come from trees but is then often chemically treated in a modern factory production process.

Industry likes to use foam because it is economically efficient (cheaper) to produce and control how it feels.

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“So what if my bed has foam?”
Well, you might want to know…It does not breathe, so you sleep hot.

The fact is that foam does not breathe well so it traps heat and moisture, which are all bad for sleeping. Some newer foam has been produced to alleviate some of that with “cooling” or “heat dissipating” technology, but that does not really solve the problem. It's basic common sense that foam and plastic do not breathe well. This is why when you sit on a plastic chair or wear rubber gloves, your skin can quickly sweat.
Wool and cotton fibers breathe and naturally wick moisture away, and foam can’t do that.

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Foam, foam everywhere

In fact, the CertiPUR-US certification we see on foam mattress products specifically says it CANNOT claim to be “safe”, “non-toxic”, “chemical free” or “no carcinogens”. No thanks!

VOC’s, or ‘Off-Gassing’, are associated byproducts of foam and foam mattresses and best avoided.

CertiPUR is the foam industry’s label, which sets the tolerances for how much Benzene, Toluene, Cadmium, Chromium, Cadmium, Tributyltin and other chemicals are allowed in the foam. OekoTex emissions and analysis methods are also compatible to CertiPUR.

You don’t have to go to a ‘green’ website to learn the truth about foam, there are reputable sources like the EPA, NIH, NASA, and others:


EPA info on VOC

Nasa's take on off-gassing

Indoor Air Quality Association video on VOC's

NIH Detail info on VOC's

Foam is man-made, not natural. Regular foam, gel foam and memory foam are all made from petroleum. Even latex foam, which comes from rubber, is mechanically and chemically processed from its original form.

Substance CertiPUR Guideline Limit [Mg/m3]
Formaldehyde <.1
Benzene <.5
Toluene <.5
Styrene <.3
Aromatic hydrocarbons <.5
TVOC Emissions <.5
Substance Guideline Limit [ppm]
Antimony (Sb) .5
Arsenic (As) .2
Cadmium (Cd) .1
Chromium total (Cr) 1.0
Cobalt (Co) .5
Copper (Cu) 2.0
Lead (Pb) .2
Nickel (Ni) 1.0
Mercury (Hg) 0.2
Selenium (Se) .5
Tributyltin (TBT) .5
Disononyl phthalate ≤.01 wt%
Di-n-octylphthalate included above
Di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate included above
Di-isodecyl pthalate included above
Butylbenzylpthalate included above
Di-butyl phthalate included above
Di-n-hexyl phthalate included above
2,4 - Toluenediamine ≤.5.0
4,4' - Diaminodiphenylmethane ≤.5.0
Sum of TDA (2,4) plus MDA (4,4') ≤.5.0
pentabromodiphenyl ether ≤.01 wt%
octabromodiphenyl ether ≤.01 wt%
decabromodiphenyl ether ≤.01 wt%
Chemical Soup Total 21.52 ppm / 2.4 [Mg/m3]

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Important notice: CertiPUR – the truth.

The foam industry created CertiPUR ‘certification’. This sets the standards of what can be tolerated in foam products to carry the CertiPUR label. CertiPUR sounds healthy, but it DOES ALLOW for chemicals like Chromium, Cadmium and Tributyltin. Here is the link to the list and actual certification requirements.

European Oeko Tex 100 (Class IV Mattress) emissions and analysis methods are also compatible to CertiPUR, so be aware of that label too.

Many bed companies say they’re “proud” of this certification. Do you want to sleep and breathe these materials?

CertiPUR products CANNOT claim:

  • Chemical-free
  • Safe
  • Non-toxic
  • No flame retardants/Free of FRs, etc.
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Environmentally
  • No carcinogens
  • Soy, agri- or bio-based
  • Renewable*
  • Recycled*
  • Green*
  • Sustainable
  • Environmentally friendly*
  • Eco-friendly*

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