FOAM mattresses could release toxic chemicals that are harmful to children as they sleep, research has found.
The mattress padding releases VOCs or ‘volatile organic compounds’ which are found in a host of common household products including perfume and paint.
Now, a study published in Environmental Science and Technology suggests the level of VOCs in polyurethane mattresses could be a cause for concern – particularly at night as they warm up when people are sleeping, causing more toxins to be released.
More dangerous at night
Corresponding author Professor Yael Dubowski said during sleep, people are likely to inhale more.
This is because of poor bedroom ventilation and the close proximity of their nose and mouth to the materials that emit the compounds.
She said: “Emission of VOCs in the sleeping microenvironment is important considering the long duration people spend there.”
First study of its kind
The analysis is the first to focus on the influence of sleeping conditions on VOCs from polyurethrane mattresses.
Professor Dubowski, a civil engineer at the Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa, said her team placed pieces of mattress into an air chamber and then analysed levels of 18 different VOCs using a scanning technique called gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.
They found all the products released quite similar amounts, except for a flame retardant released only by an infant mattress.
Prof Dubowski said: “The mattresses released more VOCs when temperature was elevated to simulate body heat.”
Kids are particularly at risk
It was estimated that doses breathed in by babies, children and adults by adults would be mostly well below those that would increase the risk of cancer.
But Prof Dubowski said: “However, for infants and young children, inhalation of some compounds – for example, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and benzene – could reach levels of concern.”
She added: “Under sleeping conditions, VOC emissions increased significantly. Elevated heat seems to be the major contributor to the enhanced emissions, compared to elevated relative humidity and CO2 concentration.
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“Exposure levels estimated for a child or infant indicate sleeping can be a significant contributor to VOC exposure, yielding concerning exposure levels for a few compounds.”
Prof Dubowski and colleagues said so far there is no evidence of adverse health effects from chronic, low-level exposure to VOCs.
Calls for more research into the topic have been voiced in the hope of providing more conclusive evidence.
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