A Guide to Low Toxic Mattresses

As my wedding and moving date approaches closer, I came to the realization that my full-sized college bed wouldn’t cut it anymore. I needed a new mattress once I moved into my husband-to-be and I’s apartment!

As I’m almost 5 months into my SIBO diagnosis now, I have been making the switch to non or low-toxic products. From hair care to what I am sleeping on–I really want to invest in products that are going to be the most beneficial towards my healing and overall wellness.

I scourged the Internet and came to find out that there are lots of icky chemicals in the mattresses we are sleeping on!


Surprise, surprise. 

Let’s check out what some of these are.

Polyurethane Foam

Polyurethane foam (and most other foam) is a petroleum-derived material that emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can cause respiratory and skin irritation.

(If you didn’t known, petroleum is a known carcinogen, or cancer-causing compound).

It is the most commonly used chemical in mattresses. And it’s also in most of your furniture (yikes).

Live Strong says: “Prolonged exposure to petroleum-based chemicals in products like urethane foam may affect the nervous and immune system and cause illnesses including cancer, neurological disorders, autoimmune weakness, asthma and allergies, infertility, miscarriage and child behavior disorders.” 

Good thing you’re not on your mattress for very long, right?

Mattress companies argue that when completely cured, PU foam is considered to be inert and non-toxic, but when mixed with all of the other chemicals loaded in mattresses, it isn’t too likely that you’re sleeping on a toxic-free polyurethane bed.


Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature that has a strong odor. Exposure to formaldehyde can cause adverse health effects.

Most mattress companies use various types of barrier fabrics which are laced with both benign chemicals, as well as toxic fire-resistance materials. Formaldehyde would fall under this category.

Formaldehyde can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. High levels of exposure can cause some types of cancers.

Flame Retardant Chemicals

Because polyurethane, and most other foams, are highly flammable, it is required to be treated or wrapped with fire retardant chemicals.

Flame-retardant chemicals have been linked to serious health risks including infertility, birth defects, neurological developmental delays, reduced IQ scores and behavioral problems in children, hormone disruption, and various forms of cancer.

Unfortunately, major mattress manufactures won’t divulge their flame-retardant formulas because they’re considered “trade secrets”. They may claim their mattresses are safe, but the reality is that they’re not.

“Is it really a big deal if these chemicals are just in the mattress? It’s not like I’m ingesting them.”

Let’s talk about off-gassing.

What is it?

(v) to give off a chemical, especially a harmful one, in the form of a gas.

Essentially, all of those nasty flame retardants, foam chemicals, PDBEs, etc. are not staying inside of your mattress. As VOCs break down, and compounds break apart, they turn into gas. Toxic gas.

As we’re spending 1/3 of our lives asleep/in bed, that’s a LOT of time to breathe in these toxic chemicals. While there have not been any studies that are proven to show that sleeping on a memory foam mattress can cause cancer, there are still plenty of cases of people experiencing health effects by sleeping on a new foam mattress. So much so… it made the news!

It’s safe to say it’s probably not the best thing for your health. So what do we do?

Have no fear. CertiPUR-US is here!

Because the mattress industry is so obscure, in 2008, responsible foam producers were concerned about the standard of foam being brought in to the U.S. They then began the CertiPUR-US program where they could make sure safe mattress standards could be met and they could reduce the level of toxicity in mattresses being produced.

Mattress companies, if they want to be deemed “safe” or “low toxic”, now have to go through a lengthy and rigorous certification process to have a ‘CertiPUR-US stamp-of-approval’ on their mattresses!

This takes a little bit of work off of our shoulders as consumers to have to do ALL of the hard research ourselves. A visit to their site will show a full list of all mattresses that have gone through the certification process. Once certified, a re-certification is required annually as well.

“Okay, but there’s a million brands on that list. Which mattress should I get?”

Ahh, the final decision. It’s tough to pick a mattress knowing you’ll have it for a couple of years. It’s an investment and you want to make sure you’re picking the best one for you or you and your spouse.

Here are some different options.

  1. The IntelliBed for $4,000. If you’re ready to blow all of your money, this is THE bed to go with. It is made ENTIRELY of gel. No foam. No flame retardants or other chemicals. Eliminates bed sores. It’s designed to help people with chronic pain. It magically (through science) helps with your pressure points and alignment somehow. They also offer a 30-year warranty (what!?) and a 60-day trial period. This is seriously my dream bed.

2. Tuft + Needle for $475-700. This is the route my fiance and I have chosen for our first mattress! We don’t have a $4,000 mattress in our budget just yet 😉 After lots of research + consulting with my FDN-P, I’ve found this one to be the most affordable and least toxic. T+N is CertiPUR-US certified, as well as GreenGuard and Oeko-Tex Certified. This means their mattress is free of 300+ harmful chemicals. The only thing it off-gasses is carbon dioxide.

It is made of their own adaptive foam formula. It’s supposed to having a cooling element to it, so it’s not too warm. You can find their mattresses on their site or on Amazon. There is also a 10-year warranty as well as a 100-day mattress trial.

3. A natural latex mattress for $700-$1500. Natural (not synthetic) latex is a natural alternative to traditional foam mattresses that can be filled with toxins. I can’t attest to the comfort of a latex bed because I’ve never slept on one. A quick amazon search will show several latex mattress options here.

There are lots of other great options out there! I was also looking into Lull, but decided on T+N because they seemed to care more about advertising their safety measures. 

“I can’t afford a new mattress–so what can I do to start helping detoxing my bedroom + home?”

I am glad you asked!

Most people don’t have the finances to toss their mattress and get a new one today. I wouldn’t advise that anyway.

Again–the goal is NOT perfection. There is no way to avoid every single toxin out there. Don’t kill yourself trying. The goal is to be conscious + aware of what is in the products we are using and surrounded by everyday and to make informed decisions on how we want to move forward.

There are options for those who want to be more conscious of reducing toxins in their bedroom, but can’t afford a new mattress for the foreseeable future. Here’s a few:

  1. Get some greenery. Plants are a GREAT way to improve indoor air quality. Plants can filter common toxins like formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and benzene. And they make your room look great!
  2. Choose natural, organic sheets. You may not be able to afford a new mattress, but you can try seeing if buying organic sheets makes a difference for you! We registered for some at target, but Amazon has some great options as well.
  3. Invest in an air purifier. Indoor air pollution is one of the top five most pressing environmental health risks according to the EPA. This is designed to eliminate harmful airborne particles and filter air. There are several reasonably priced purifiers on Amazon and other popular stores.
  4. Ditch the candles. I get that it sets the mood, but there’s all kinds of cancer-causing chemicals in these guys. Switch to soy + beeswax candles!
  5. Sleep away from your phoneSeveral studies suggest that radiation exposure causes people to take longer to reach the deeper stages of sleep and to spend less time in them, interfering with the body’s ability to repair damage suffered during the day.
  6. Get a mattress cover/protector. There are plenty organic options on Amazon.
  7. Try a Himalayan Salt Lamp. Pink salt isn’t just for food! They also improve the indoor air quality, allergies, + mood! I definitely got one of these down for our registry too! There’s a million options on Amazon.

It’s never too late or too early to start learning this stuff and becoming informed on what we’re using every day! I love getting to do the research for these guides + learn more about how I am caring for myself every day. I want to learn how to make the best choices for me. I hope this helps you make the best mattress choice for you!

Let me know what mattress you love! Is it one I didn’t recommend?

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