Mattress off-gassing anyone?

I made a brief effort to find information about foam mattress “off-gassing”. What exactly is in the gas, couldn’t find that information. Are the particles in the gas harmful if inhaled, couldn’t find that information. How long does this persist for, couldn’t find that information.

The only place I could find “information” about off-gassing was on websites that were selling organic mattresses. To make matters worse they use babies in their sales pitches. However no sources or links to research on the composition of this gas or whether this gas is harmful or how long the gas continues and at what levels.

I am of the mind that if it doesn’t help then it’s probably harmful, especially when it comes to man made objects where profit is involved.

No gastronomical jokes please.

An independent and unbiased sitedevoted to mattress reviews describes it as just an annoying odor.

There aren’t “particles” in gas. If the mattress is releasing particles, it’s either very dusty or so old that the foam is disintegrating with age.

Sorry, you’re wrong. There are particles in gas. I know this because farts smell. The fart particles interact with your sensory organ (your nose) so you are in effect breathing in particles of…

From Wikipedia:
“What distinguishes a gas from liquids and solids is the vast separation of the individual gas particles.”

Aside from that, thank you very much for the links. I will check them out.

I did take a look at the site you linked to. Not exactly what I was looking for. A quote from the site:

“The science of VOCs is complex and is beyond the scope of our mattress research. Our research focuses instead on analyzing mattress owner reports of off gassing.”

Googled a bit. While I can’t rule out particles, wiki and other description sites describeolfactory receptorsas binding to* molecules *- which would be the gases themselves and not particles floating in the gases. Although it does look like it’s possible for molecules from particles to be dissolved and then bound, the only particles likely to be present in the average fart are globules of condensing water vapor, and those won’t travel very far.

The bad smell portion of the fart experience comes from volatile sulphur compounds, which are gases under normal earth conditions. But, yeah, those gases were excreted by bacteria and archaea in someone’s colon as they digested something that someone ate and now those gas atoms have become attached to a neuron in your nose that’s directly attached to your brain. Smell is the most direct and intimate sense that we have.

Yllaria, I never expected this discussion to go off on a tangent but maybe it’s not a tangent as it’s discussion is integral to the topic. Here is a nice page that describes The Difference Between Atoms, Molecules, and Particles

It’s just an odor, it’s fine. Not dangerous, doesn’t cause any health issues or symptoms.

/love my memory foam

There are many definitions of “particle” and if the one you used in your OP is the same as the one you’re linking to here it made no sense. It defines particle as elemental particle (neutron, proton).

The wikipedia article uses gas particle because a gas can be monatomic, in which case gas molecule wouldn’t be correct, but in most cases people who talk about gases talk about gas molecules, and use the term particle for bits made up of lots of molecules, like dust.

Your use of farts as “proof” there are particles in gas is just plain odd …

I did a brief google around and most of the sites giving consumer information on furniture off-gassing weren’t as interested in mattresses as they were in things with paints, sealants, and particle board or plywood. Although fire retardant and stain resistant sealers were mentioned. What is in the gas will vary from item to item. Even for the same item, by the same manufacturer, the amount of off-gassing can vary significantly due to different transportation and warehouse conditions.

On the whole, the more time a piece of furniture sits somewhere, especially unwrapped*, the better the chance that most of the VOCs will have already off-gassed. Higher temperature and higher humidity will speed off-gassing. New office buildings, with all new furniture, were what brought the problems of off-gassing to the attention of regulatory agencies, back in the day. The standard now is not to open a new office building to occupancy without cranking up the building’s heaters for from one to three days, depending on how sealed an environment it is. If every window can be opened, one day with the heater on might do it.

Three days seems to be the concensus of consumer sites, which recommend unwrapping furniture and leaving it in the garage, the warehouse, somewhere open for three days if you are concerned. The sites say that some people are more sensitive than other, which sounds right.

The symptoms that people complain of are headaches and dizziness. If you were exposed to some VOCs chronically, say by working in the factory, you might worry about long term exposure. Consumer sites say that in three days, a week, tops, furniture should have completed any significant off-gassing and that in three months to a year, there will be no detectable off-gassing. And off-gassing for some gases can be detected in parts per billion, so it’s insignificant long before it’s undetectable.

If you want to hit someone’s scary worry button, you could use the F-word. Yes, some furniture will off-gas traces of formaldehyde. Some manufacturers use it to cure particle board, among other things. It’s not likely to be in a mattress, but might be in the box springs. Again, three days of ventilation is usually long enough. For a single piece of furniture, even a mattress, some people wouldn’t notice a thing if they slept on it fresh from the factory.

This is a situation where everybody’s mileage varies a lot. Oh, speaking of mileage, VOCs are the source of ‘new car smell’, which I haven’t seen any warnings or complaints about.

  • One site recommended buying floor models or used furniture.

Thanks for the link. The particles I’m most used to dealing with are the ones defined by the EPA for air quality purposes. The two particle classes that are reported and overseen, currently, are PM10 and PM2.5, which are 10 and 2.5 micrometers, respectively. For reports related to traffic and transportation, this is usually road dust, exhaust, brake wear, and tire wear.

These particles are much bigger than a molecule. And now I’m curious about whether they can be smelled directly or not. They’re too big to bind to a receptor, but they could theoretically dissolve in nasal secretions enough that an individual, say, rubber molecule could be captured. And they could off-gas molecules as well as a mattress could.


“Our research focuses instead on analyzing reports of mattress owner off gassing.”

Probably a lot bigger problem.

We had more problem with the sawdust smell from the platform than we did with the mattress. It took a long time for it to finally dissipate.

Hi Chefguy, particle board is made with glues that contain significant amounts of formaldehyde. The glue holds all the particles of wood together. So, it might have been that. Not saying it was, but it could have been. If it was solid wood then it might have been the natural resins in the wood since “sawdust” is indeed made of wood. Pine smells much more than hardwoods do. The resins take a long time to dry out.

I’m assuming that parts of the platform were wood and parts were OSB. I couldn’t really tell if it was glue or sawdust (or a combination), but decided I didn’t want to think about inhaling glue fumes.

That’s a pretty paranoid and unhelpful position. The vast majority of chemicals you come across in your everyday life are perfectly benign at the concentrations you encounter them.

On the other hand, leaning a new mattress up against a wall for three days before you use it isn’t the worst thing a person could do.

I wasn’t speaking about the “vast majority of chemicals”. Considering a mattress is a place where you spend a large part of your life your exposure goes up dramatically. When you consider all the other plastics that surround us these days it would be wise to consider your exposure and risk.

I will put one example out there to counter claims that I am “paranoid”. A fire retardant that the government required manufacturers to spray on their mattresses which eventually was found to cause cancer and other diseases LINK Definitely a case of the solution being worse than the problem.

My position is helpful to me. When it comes to voting for a product (by purchasing it) I want to know it’s not going to be harmful to me, my family, or the environment. The risks are too great to assume it’s NOT harmful because no one has bothered to study it. I don’t spend a great deal of time shopping for stuff so this “paranoid” attitude doesn’t frustrate my life in any way.

While I am commenting a few more examples that come to mind… I am sure you’ve heard of contaminated products coming out of China. Those weren’t tested either, everyone just assumed they were fine to consume, apply to their faces, etc… How do you feel about BPA? That was also “benign” until… we found out it wasn’t. The list is quite long. I would rather not pay to be a guinea pig if I can help it.

That’s the attitude I like!

Hmmm, maybe you could try finding an MSDS for your mattress. Of course, than you’d have to lookup all the chemicals used in creating and processing the mattress (e.g. detergent used to clean cloth/thread before it was made into the covering, glues holding bits together, etc.). However, it would be a clear and (supposedly) unbiased source of info.

Here is one: link.

Also, the wikipedia page on memory foam includes the statement: “Emissions from memory foam mattresses may directly cause more respiratory irritation than other mattresses…” in its Hazards section. Link.

This page discusses off-gassing and also lists some major manufacturers and the percent of odor complains.

I have a memory foam mattress and did not have a problem with off-gassing.