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To understand if mattress foam is healthy or unsafe we first need to know what bio based foam is used for? Commercial and residential furniture commonly use open cell flexible polyurethane foam (FPF) as cushioning for various types of products like mattresses , memory foam mattress, and various other products.
With all the new bio foams on the market today it should come as no surprise that mattress companies in particular are starting to hype their new eco friendly features, but are some promoting such mattresses as a healthy alternative to traditional polyurethane and visco elastic memory foam? We haven’t been able to quite put our finger on whether it is sales people who don’t know any better or consumers drawing their own conclusions, but we are definitely detecting a new trend, a trend where consumers are coming into our store under the impression that the newer earth friendly bio based polyurethane foams and memory foam mattresses are somehow more healthy and no toxic chemicals. Today we set the record strait from a chemical standpoint they are basically the same.
Bio based foams utilize sustainable crops like corn, soybeans, sunflower seeds, and even castor beans but it’s not like we grow a corn stalk and turn it into a mattress rather we utilize a portion of in this case corn as a key components in making of bio based foams. What one must first understand is that when a company makes flexible foams such as polyurethane or visco elastic memory foam manufacturers traditionally have used petroleum derived reactants called polyol and isocyanate. Over the years with the increase of crude oil prices, the higher costs have pushed technology forward.
Today manufacturers are able to reduce cost and take advantage of sustainable resources like the above mentioned. Resplenishishable resources like corn and soybeans play an important role. Foam manufactures have started taking some of the pressure off at least a portion of the crude needed to build flexible foams. Foam suppliers have been able to replace at least a portion of the petroleum-based polyols with renewable soy-based polyols. In order to make traditional flexible PU foam, petroleum-derived reactants called polyol and isocyanate, are needed. Now that the price of crude oil have increased the cost of PU reactants have as well, biobased polyol substitutes for the petroleum-based polyols are a cheaper alternative.
The fact is foam must be properly cured (aired out) and whether that takes place in the plant that makes the foam or at the mattress manufacturer , foam needs to properly cure and minimize smell. This works in a similar way to the way that paint dries. Once paint has fully dried the VOC’s volatile organic compounds have become more stable and they pose little to no threat in the same way foam needs to “dry”. In addition to the many chemicals used to build foams, there are also fire retardants added to some flexible foams especially more dense foams to modify combustion characteristics and retard flames.
As with many products today supply is becoming limited and demand is becoming greater we all are beginning to feel the pinch especially in the grocery stores. So much of those demands for foods in the grocery stores that rely on corn and soybeans have increased some food costs. Recently more promising avenues such as castor beans have showed promise in taking the heat off corn and soybeans. The truth is nothing in the process of making foam resembles the corn, soybeans, or sunflower seeds that we started with, so bio based foams are no healthier since the end manufacturing process is the same as traditional methods.