AVOID These Chemicals in Mattresses for Healthy Sleep

Learn which harmful chemicals in mattresses may cause health problems so you can make a safe and non toxic mattress purchase.

Chemicals in mattresses to avoid

When you finally flop into your bed at night, the last thing you want to be doing is worrying about toxic chemicals, right?

Yet, your mattress is likely off-gassing chemicals into the air around you while you sleep.

So instead of helping you get a restful night’s sleep, your mattress may be contributing to your health problems. It’s hard to rest easy knowing you are sleeping in a bed of toxic chemicals – especially since we spend approximately 1/3 of our lives in bed. 

In this post, we’ll be exploring exactly HOW this is a problem and the specific chemicals you should AVOID when purchasing a mattress.

mattress with topper

At Mindful Momma we only endorse products we’ve personally researched, tested, and honestly love. We may receive commissions from affiliate links in this article including Amazon Affiliates. Full Disclosure

What is Off-Gassing?

Off-gassing is a term that refers to the release of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or other gases from certain materials or products into the surrounding air. This phenomenon commonly occurs with newly manufactured items like furniture, carpets, paints, plastics, building materials and yes, mattresses. VOCs are also found in many home cleaning and personal care products.

VOCs emitted during off-gassing can include chemicals like formaldehyde, flame retardants, benzene, and toluene. These chemicals vaporize at room temperature and concentrate in indoor air, and can have potential health risks, such as eye, nose, and respiratory irritation, headaches, dizziness, and in some cases, more serious health issues with long-term exposure. Serious health disorders can include thyroid and reproductive problems, nervous system damage and some VOCs are suspected or proven carcinogens.

Fortunately, VOCs don’t stay in your body for a long time, but repeated exposures can cause them to build-up. And VOCs can continue to off-gas from a product for years, causing the repeated exposures you are looking to avoid. Bottom line, it’s best to limit your exposure to VOCs as much as possible.


woman holding beaker of chemicals in a lab

The Chemicals in Mattresses to AVOID

Conventional mattresses are made with petroleum-based foam infused with flame retardants and is assembled using strong glues and adhesives. A finished mattress is often covered in synthetic materials like polyester or PVC vinyl for waterproofing.

Ultimately this means that your mattress is releasing toxic fumes while you sleep. 

Let’s take a look at the specific chemicals in mattresses that you should avoid when you are looking to purchase a healthy mattress:

Flame Retardants

For many years, flame retardants have been added to mattresses during the manufacturing process to meet federal flammability standards. The flame-retardant chemicals are mixed into polyurethane foam (including memory foam mattresses), making it resistant to fire by hindering ignition and the growth of flames.

However, many chemical flame retardants, including Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs), TCEP (known as chlorinated tris), antimony trioxide, and Decabromodiphenyl oxide (also known as Deca) have been associated with potential health hazards. These health issues range from respiratory or skin irritation, to heart, lung, and kidney problems, and even cancer.

Many chemical flame retardants also have an adverse effect on the environment because they persist and bioaccumulate in organisms.


Safer Alternatives: Fortunately, safe and natural flame retardant materials do exist. A safe mattress will use natural wool or silica (a natural mineral) to meet federal flammability standards instead of chemicals. In addition, polyurethane foam that is certified by Certipur-US bans the worst flame retardants but does allow some flame retardant chemicals to be used.

Glues & Adhesives

Most mattresses are assembled and held together using solvent-based glues and adhesives that can release harmful VOCs in the environment. As we’ve already discussed, these VOCs are linked to a variety of negative health issues.

Safer Alternatives: Instead of toxic chemicals, a healthy mattress is assembled using water-based glues such as a liquid latex adhesive that is Greenguard Gold certified.


Formaldehyde is an industrial chemical that is often used in glues and bonding agents. It is a colorless gas that releases as a VOC with a strong smell. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. Exposure to low levels of formaldehyde can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, as well as headaches.

Safer Alternatives: A non-toxic mattress will be certified to be formaldehyde-free.

PVC Vinyl

In order to make a mattress waterproof, a finished mattress might be covered with polyvinyl chloride or PVC vinyl. This PVC material can contain harmful additives like phthalates, lead and other toxic substances, which can emit dangerous VOCs.


Safer Alternatives: If you need a waterproof barrier for your mattress (especially important for crib mattresses), look for safe waterproof covers made from Polylactic acid (PLA), which is a type of biodegradable, plastic-like material that is created from renewable resources like sugar cane or corn.

bedroom with bed, mattress, pillows and plants

Where to Find a Chemical-Free Mattress

Now that you are aware of the toxic chemicals to avoid in mattresses, you are one step closer to finding the non toxic mattress of your dreams.

https://mindfulmomma.com/non-toxic-mattress-certifications/When shopping for a new mattress, you’ll want to look for one made with natural materials like organic cotton, organic latex and wool and that is free from chemical flame retardants and toxic glues. Also look for trusted, third-party certifications like Global Organic Textile Standard and Global Organic Latex Standard. (Learn more about organic mattress certifications)

Take a look at my non-toxic mattress buying guide with the best brands of mattresses for all needs and budgets.

My top recommended brands for non-toxic and organic mattresses include:

Are you in the market for a non toxic mattress? Leave a comment on the post and let us know your thoughts and concerns.

green & healthy wishes Micaela signature

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