Toxic Foam in Mattresses, Furniture, and Car Seats – Safe Alternatives

There are so many things and manufacturing processes I took for granted – I just never though to question them!  Until a few years ago.  One of these things is the foam used in our mattresses and baby products, such as carseats and carriers, as well as in furniture including the seats/chairs in airplanes.

Are these processes creating safe products?  Who is regulating, checking, and enforcing the safety?  Who is deciding what IS safe?

The foam in these products is poisoning us, due to both

  1. the material/process from which it is made, as well as the
  2. additional chemicals which are used to impregnate the foam — alleged “flame retardants.”

The foam presents air quality issues (off-gassing), toxic home dust (also contributing to air quality), as well as body toxicity via ingestion and inhalation.


What is the risk?

Flame Retardants

Studies have shown that it takes women longer to get pregnant when these chemicals are in their bodies (Eskanazi et al, 2010, 2011, 2012).  The same studies show effects in the babies born: lower birth weight, impaired attention, poorer coordination, and lowered IQ.

These chemicals are mutagens, carcinogens, obesegens, immune suppressants, endocrine disruptors, to name a FEW.

The endless iterations and ‘regrettable substitutions of this chemical include: Brominated Tris, PEntaBDE, Chlorinated Tris, Firemaster 550, ad phosphates.

Arlene Blum found that when she had a convetional couch in her home, her house dust contained 97 ppm of flame retardant chemicals, whereas her home only contained 3ppm after sending the couch to the landfill.

As an aside, it is unfortunate that there is no safe place to dispose of these chemical-laden products, or manage them.  When people try to do the ‘right’ thing by recycling foam, it just introduces the poison into your home through another route, such as material used in carpeting, to give it cushioning underfoot, to give one example.

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There are no regulations or laws that require manufacturers to disclose when they are using these chemicals, and they are impossible to ‘wash out.’  So washing baby clothes before you put them on your baby for the first time is not going to solve this problem.  These toxic chemicals are obesegens (cause us to put on weight!), as well as interfering with our neurological development, and our hormones, and basically everything in our body!

Although the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a guidance in the Federal Registry recommending that consumers, especially pregnant mothers and young children, obtain assurances from retailers products don’t contain the chemicals, and although they also recommended that manufacturers eliminate the use of these chemicals, this is not going to fix this issue. (September 28, 2017).

If you call the manufacturer, the person you’re speaking with is going to have no idea what you’re talking about.

Then, they will get back to you after talking with a manger and assure you that they don’t use those products.  They could be lying, misinformed, or not even understand your question accurately, because so few people actually know what’s going, or in worst cases, don’t care.

You spend at least 8 hours ever night with your face and skin next to your sheets and mattress.  You inhale and absorb poisonous (toxic) substances which are impregnated into mattresses and synthetic sheets (including bamboo and cellulose sheets).  You then transmit them through the placenta to your fetus.

The same applies to clothing or baby carriers or furniture.

Flame retardants are persistent, and move from our furniture and electronics, into our air and house dust, and into our bodies, and some of it is excreted, and even persists and survives through sewage treatment, which is then often turned into biosolids and applied as fertilizer!  Read this article to learn more about this featuring the work of Rolf Halden, professor at Arizona State University, adjunct faculty at John Hopkins, and an expert on the environmental impacts of industrial chemicals.

Ways that these Chemicals Get Into Our Bodies

  • Absorption through Skin
  • Inhalation – through off-gassing
  • Inhalation – through fine particulates that fall of into the dust of our homes
  • Consumption/hand-to-mouth – from the dust in our home

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Risk of Fire?

Our policymakers haven’t protected us from flame retardant chemicals, despite the fact that they are not effective.

Flame retardant impregnated foam will only delay a fire from burning the item in question for 12 seconds.

Flame retardants don’t provide any meaningful benefit when there is a house fire, and in fact, makes everything worse and more dangerous, as shown in this article feature  combustion scientist, Donald Lucas.




Product Materials Where we Find Toxic Chemicals

  • Fabric/Upholstery (clothing, sheets, mattress coverings)
  • Foam (couches, mattresses, baby carriers)
  • Carpet cushioning

Three Points where chemicals are Added

  • Thread – extrusion & spinning
  • Fabric/Upholstery
  • Foam


Let’s break this down further.


The Substance Itself

Think about what foam is made of.  Even if they don’t add the flame retardants, conventional foam is derived from petroleum.  The end result is a bunch of toxic chemicals and petroleum, made through a toxic manufacturing process.

Flame Retardants Added

The FOAM used inside mattresses (as well as all furniture, baby carriers, etc) consists of at least 5% flame retardant chemicals. by weight! – The Green Science Policy Institute.



How Do You Know if your Fabrics & Foam Furniture Are Safe?

Chemicals used in thread extrusion and spinning process

Unless your textiles/fabrics are 100% cotton or linen, they are impregnated with chemicals used in the thread extrusion process.

Flame Retardants

Unless your textiles/fabrics are certified organic, it is possible and likely that the manufacturer has also applied flame retardant chemicals, which we just discussed.

Foam consists of at least 5% flame retardants, by weight

Unless your ‘foam’ is certified organic, it most likely consists of at least 5% flame retardant chemicals. by weight!  Scientists at Duke University are examining the use of flame retardant chemicals in furniture. You can be part of the study by sending a sample from your home. Visit the study website for more information.  They test for some flame retardant chemicals, but there are so many chemicals, they can’t test for all of them at this time, but their test will give you enough information.

Foam itself is toxic…

Along with the chemicals used to create the foam, which remain impregnated in the foam.  To get a safe alternative, search for

  • furniture, mattresses and baby carriers made with wool and cotton batting
  • or mattress made out of organic latex foam
  • or mattresses made out of other materials, such as the brand Samina


Where Can I Get Safe Products?

Click here to get a recommended list of brands.

  • Fabric/Upholstery (clothing, sheets, mattress coverings)
  • Foam (couches, mattresses, baby carriers)
  • Carpet cushioning






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