Polyurethane: A Blessing and a Curse?

A manmade material, polyurethane has many applications from finishing furniture to helping a mattress offer that can’t-wait-to-go-to-bed feeling.Polyurethane was first formulated in 1937 and has come under fire in recent years for its potential toxicity.

Some mattresses that contain polyurethane — such as memory foam and egg crate foam toppers — have been showed to emit dozens of chemicals. For people who are sensitive to chemicals, mattresses that containpolyurethane may cause attacks and allergic reactions. But are the chemicals toxic?


It Could be a Curse

They just might be. Polyurethane is made from petroleum-based materials and its emissions can cause lung and skin irritation, asthma attacks, headaches, coughing, wheezing, vomiting, dizziness and an upset stomach.


If you have a mattress that contains polyurethane, you can lessen your exposure by opening a window and turning on a fan to ventilate the room. You can also try turning up the heat to speed up the off-gassing process.


Why Polyurethane is Used

Despite its potential hazards, polyurethane is a popular mattress component for a couple reasons.


  • Polyurethane is cheaper than other materials, such as natural latex.


  • Because polyurethane can be manufactured, it is a readily available and there is enough to easily meet the demand.


  • Polyurethane has better properties than natural substances, such as the slow spring back function of memory foam.


  • It can be easily blended with any natural material during manufacturing.


Polyurethane is also the main ingredient in memory foam, which many people enjoy for its temperature sensitive, slow spring back properties that conform to each sleeper’s body and provide consistent support.


What to Do If You Are Worried

Picking the best mattressto fit your health doesn’t have to mean that you have to sacrifice comfort. There are many natural and organic mattress options on the market today, including mattresses made with plant-based memory foam and latex from rubber trees.