VOCs are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short and long-term adverse health effects. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands. EPA's Office of Research and Development's "Total Exposure Assessment Methodology (TEAM) Study" (Volumes I through IV, completed in 1985) found levels of about a dozen common organic pollutants to be 2 to 5 times higher inside homes than outside, regardless of whether the homes were located in rural or highly industrial areas.
TEAM studies indicated that while people are using products containing organic chemicals, they can expose themselves and others to very high pollutant levels, and elevated concentrations can persist in the air long after the activity is completed. Conventional mattresses are usually made of polyurethane foam or synthetic latex which generally off-gas VOCs. It's difficult to find out exactly which chemicals were used in a particular mattress. On top of that, flame retardants like PBDEs, chlorinated Tris, or newer chemicals are often added, and won't be listed anywhere in sight. Couches, curtains and pillows also frequently contain flame retardants. You also want to avoid mattresses, curtains and upholstery that are stain resistant, as they contain harmful chemicals. Similarly, the chemical that makes sheets (and clothes) wrinkle-free releases formaldehyde. VOC-Free Organic Mattresses Natural latex, virgin wool, and organic cotton mattresses with cotton (or wool) covers are great chemical free mattress options. There are plenty of options for natural latex mattresses made in US and Canada. (Make sure it is 100% natural latex, claims zero-VOCs, and test for odors/sensitivities to make sure nothing was added to it).