What Is Off Gassing?

What Is Off Gassing?

What Is Off Gassing?

Off-gassing, or chemical odors, is one issue that is often listed by those considering memory foam.

About 15% of people who buy a memory foam mattress report a noticeable odor. For most people, this is a just a minor annoyance that dissipates within a few days to a few weeks. However, a small percentage of people may report respiratory irritation and other symptoms like nausea and headaches.

polyurethane foam

What is Off-Gassing?

All manufactured products have odors based on their components, but the term off-gassing is focused more on the release of Volatile Organic Compounds. Called VOCs, these substances refer to both natural and man-made compounds that have low boiling points and give of aromatic properties as the naturally degrade. Even humans and animals give off methane while plants give off isoprene and terpenes, all natural VOCs. Other sources you may be familiar with include paints and solvents, gasoline and exhaust, new cars and nearly anything else with an odor.

Memory foam is a hi-tech polyurethane foam, a material traditionally made from a range of chemicals. The use of petroleum-based substances is a main cause of off-gassing in foams. Finished foams are largely innocuous, but some manufacturers may also include other VOCs of concern like formaldehyde (a preservative), chlorofluorocarbons/CFCs (blowing agents), and Polybrominated diphenyl ethers/PBDEs (fire retardants). While many of these have been banned or voluntarily phased out, brands are not required to disclose full chemical contents of their products and imported brands may not follow the same standards as US and EU companies.

sensitive respiratory systems or chemical sensitivities

In people with sensitive respiratory systems or chemical sensitivities, eye, nose and throat irritation, nausea, and headaches may develop with strong or sustained exposure, but generally disappear shortly after. More dangerous VOCs have been linked longer-term effects like central nervous system damage, organ damage, and cancer. However, for memory foams produced under current regulations, there are no credible studies showing health risks caused by VOCs or chemicals.

There are also alternative memory foam mattresses available such as plant-based and gel that may have lower levels of odor than traditional options. Plant-based memory foams utilize less VOC-producing petroleum products and may be manufactured in a method more conscious of chemicals and odors. Gel foams may also reduce odor by reducing the amount of memory foam present. Other lines may also add scents like green tea to mask odors.

Memory foam used in Memory Foam Futon Mattresses is commonly made from petroleum. Whether it is Tempurpedic, Vera Wang, Serta, Simmons or Sealy the memory foam is polyurethane based. To make matters worse, some memory foams have added fire retardants bringing harmful chemicals introducing them to your home and your family.

Soy-Based Memory Foam

The Futon Shop uses a soy-based memory foam with only half of the petro-chemicals typically used in Memory Foam and replaces them with soybean oil, but contains none of the harmful fire retardants. The process removes all the poly's from the polyurethane leaving a result designed for less off-gassing of VOC's. It's like a hybrid car that uses a battery as well as petroleum. It isn't a perfect world, but it's a start. To make the world even a better place The Futon Shop memory foam has no added fire retardants.


CertiPUR-US is an independence organization developed by US and European industries which tests polyurethane foams for emissions, harmful chemicals (including formaldehyde, CFCs, methylene chloride, heavy metals, banned pthalates and PBDEs), and durability. Only those foams found to have low VOC emissions (under 0.50 mg/m3) and meeting the other requirements are certified. This designation can be useful for shoppers who are concerned about odors and chemicals.

The Futon Shop's Soy based Memory Foam and all of their foams have been certified by CertiPUR-US. If fact all the foam the futon shop uses is a soy-based foam for the most natural experience possible.

  • Click here for the Foam Certipur US Certification Learn more about perserve.
  • Click to check out some Soy Memory Foam Mattresses.
  • Click to discover why mattresses sometimes have a odor.
  • Another great read with more info on off gassing.
  • Click to read about (VOC's) Volatile Organic Compounds.
  • Click here to learn about flame retardants.



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