Skip to main content

Is Your Mattress Toxic and Making You Sick?

  • Author:
  • Updated date:

In health care since 1977, but keenly aware of Western medicine's shortcomings, Rose Mary began exploring natural health in the late 1990s.

My Sealy Viscoelastic mattress and adjustable base

My Sealy Viscoelastic mattress and adjustable base

Serious Illness from Viscoelastic Mattress in the News

Around 2012 I saw a piece on the evening news about a man who suffered various debilitating health complaints that were eventually traced to his Viscoelastic mattress. The reporter was careful to say that “some” people may be unusually sensitive to the chemicals in the foam. This was a very interesting and concerning story to me, as I had been using a Visco mattress topper for 10 years.

Today’s Mattresses and Foundations are Made from Petroleum-Based Products

As it turned out, there are a lot of concerns with toxic fumes from mattresses in general. In the 1950s, mattresses were made from natural materials, like cotton batting. Mattresses are now made from petroleum-based products concocted in labs and factories. Such materials are linked with weakening the immune system and nervous system. Add to this flame retardants.

These mattresses and foundations continuously shed toxic chemicals into the air. I think this situation is similar to the situation of toxic fumes coming from new paint and new carpet, which can emit relatively high levels of toxic chemicals for several years. Fortunately, we don’t sleep with our faces next to painted walls or carpeted floors. Thankfully low VOC and zero-VOC paints are now available.

Symptoms from Mattresses

The anecdotal evidence of illnesses related to mattresses is, as they say, overwhelming. With a quick first run search, I found the website, with 235 reports of adults and children developing physical symptoms, as well as a few emotional symptoms, after buying a new mattress or pillow. Many people described chemical odors coming from their mattress, sometimes not detectable by other family members.

Reported symptoms included:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Sinus problems
  • Swollen, red, itchy eyes
  • Rashes
  • Breathing problems
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart attack symptoms
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Auto-immune problems
  • Strange dreams
  • Depression

What Do I Do About My Bed?

After seeing the news story about the gentleman and his mattress-related sickness, I was concerned about having had a Viscoelastic mattress topper for a decade. I had had multiple health challenges since about 2004—thyroid issues, reflux, chronic sinus issues. I had my energy healer do applied kinesiology muscle testing. The result was that my mattress topper was not for “my greatest good” and “weakened me”. So, I removed the topper, and got rid of it. I didn’t think to have her check me to see if my Sealy Posturepedic mattress was okay. Reported health issues are not limited to Viscoelastic products.

So, what happens if you think your mattress or topper is making you sick? Seems pretty drastic to throw out a mattress if you’re not sure. Especially if it’s an expensive mattress. On a bright note, many of the people who reported symptoms on the chem-tox website, stated that their symptoms disappeared almost immediately after they removed their mattresses from their homes. One person reported he had noticed he was only sick when he slept at home. You could try spending a couple of nights in a hotel, or with friends or family.

If you decide that your mattress is making you sick, consider a “natural” or organic bed.

What if I Really Want a Viscoelastic Mattress?

I actually bought a Viscoelastic mattress in 2015. My energy healer went to Mattress Firm with me and muscle tested me right in the store. We went to each mattress option that I was interested in. I was not going to spend $4500 on a Tempur-Pedic®, but Sealy also makes a Viscoelastic mattress for less than half the price. My muscle testing indicated that I would be okay with the Sealy, and I’ve been very happy with it.

Where Does Western Medicine Stand on This Issue?

When I did a web search on “sickness” and “mattresses”, there were no returns for anything like Mayo Clinic or NIH. There was one hit from WebMD, mostly about Viscoelastic mattresses and benefits vs problems for back pain and such. They quoted a sleep specialist, a PhD on a lot of issues. She mentioned clients complaining about the smell from new mattresses but stated “I’ve never heard of anyone having reactions to it.”

The issue of sickness from mattresses, toppers, and pillows is the kind of thing that Western Medicine providers roll their eyes at. They don’t give much regard for a preponderance of anecdotal evidence, favoring double blind randomized studies. One thing I always keep is mind—a lack of proof of harm is not the same as proof that something is safe.

Hootie on Foster and Smith couch

Hootie on Foster and Smith couch

Eco-Friendly Dog Beds May Not be as Friendly as You Think

Periodically I throw out our old dog beds and order a few new ones. In 2013 I ordered some replacement beds from Doctors Foster and Smith. They were very attractive, and our dogs seemed to love them, at least for a while.

Then something changed. One day, to my dismay, I realized that one of the dogs had peed on the nice, relatively new dog bed in the living room. We removed the bed to the garage, removed the cover, laundered it, and eventually put the bed back together and placed it in the living room. A couple of weeks later it happened again. We blamed the incidents on the male doxie and decided to switch out that bed with one for the female spaniel in my brother’s room where the male does not have access.

All was well for a while with the switch. Then one night holy hell, pee on the bed--an enormous amount of pee. I felt strongly this time the culprit was the much larger spaniel. So here we go again--bed to the garage, pull out the stuffing, prepare to launder. A few days later, it hit me that the stuffing was the same for the two beds. I went online to see if the stuffing was listed and guess what?! The stuffing was the same for both beds--Doctors Foster and Smith MiracleLoft® polyfil, an eco-friendly material from recycled plastic soda bottles!

I think the dogs were trying to tell us something--‘We don’t want to sleep on a bed of toxic waste, no matter how comfy’. My thoughts--Good for the planet and good for our bodies is not necessarily mutually inclusive.

Sebastian seems to really like his Sealy bed

Sebastian seems to really like his Sealy bed

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 rmcrayne