18 Mar #73 Fatal Conveniences™: Memory Foam: Comfort at the Cost of Your Health
The average person spends nearly 3,000 hours in bed sleeping every year. That’s a lot of time spent on your mattress and pillows. Shouldn’t you be more aware of what’s lurking in the surface you spend ⅓ of your life on?
Welcome to Fatal Conveniences™.
Memory foam mattresses and pillows are a 5.2 Billion dollar industry.
I’m just going to jump right into it. Memory foam is a cool invention, but it has a few fatal flaws. The science nerd in me loves how this stuff came about, and I think it’s an amazing concept. Material that shapes to individual bodies while maintaining its original structure is incredibly compelling. But the problem is, it’s full of toxic chemicals.
In this segment, I go over the history of this innovative invention and why we’re so taken by it. Sure, memory foam may help with back pain, but there are other options that aren’t full of carcinogens. I’ll give you a breakdown of why off-gassing is so dangerous and what kind of things to look for on labels to avoid it. If you have a memory foam mattress at home, I want you to make it a priority to eventually replace it with one of the safer options I give you. I know this may be frustrating, but I’m trying to open your eyes to dangerous products lurking in your home.
Other info in this Fatal Conveniences™ segment:
- The history of memory foam
- A list of the toxic chemicals in these products
- VOCs and off-gassing
- What to look for on labels
- Refresher on flame retardants
Darin: It’s that time of the week for another fatal convenience. This is a bite-size segment that addresses some of society’s fatal conveniences and the steps you can take to avoid becoming a victim of them. I define fatal conveniences as the things we may be doing because the world we live in makes us believe we have to, tap water, shampoo, sunglasses, food. I dive into the hidden truths behind some of our everyday choices that could not only be harming us but even killing us, so let’s dive in.
Darin: Hey, everybody, welcome to the show. This is another installment, another navigation through another fatal convenience. Again, just to reiterate, fatal conveniences are meant to inspire you. We are all born into the society. We are all part of this general population where people are making choices, and we are part of that ecosystem. There are certain kids these days that do not know a world without cellphones. So, they’re using it. They’ve had it in their hands since they were, some of them toddlers, and so it is part of the culture. If we don’t unpack some of this stuff and understand that just because they’re used to it does not mean that it’s safe. That is on us as a society, as individuals, to realize what’s healthy for us, what’s healthy for our children, and what’s healthy for society and change those things because a lot of companies that have made a lot of money on fatal conveniences. This next installment is a great invention, but it has a fatal flaw. So, this is memory foam. You’re all aware of it. This incredible stuff that when you press on it, your body goes into it. It molds and shapes to your and then it goes back to its original form. Incredible. Well, guess what? There has to be some downsides to this weird chemistry that they have made for us in mattresses. Now, listen. The market shows that memory foam mattresses have sky rocketed, as well as pillows, the memory foam pillows in the United States. In 2018, the US memory foam mattress and pillow market was valued at about 5.2 billion dollars. Woah! I had no idea. And it’s projected to reach 8 billion dollars by the year 2023. So that’s literally in 2 years, and it’s growing by leaps and mountains because of the aging population and the aches and pains. So, the memory foam molds and shapes to your body so, therefore, putting less strain on areas that maybe are already in strain and pain. That’s why the industry is so big, but obviously with off-gassing and volatile organic compounds, and all of these things that we’re gonna unpack today to reveal the fatal convenience of memory foam. But hey, it is a cool invention. In the 1960’s, NASA hired an aeronautic engineer named Charles Yost to improve airline seating for crash and vibration protection, that was the origin. So, it absorbed energy, so less strain on the body, and they called this kind of open-cell polymeric memory foam material that was both soft and energy absorbent. And NASA Ames Research Center used this cushion-like material to create for new plane seats designed to help the impact protection as well and improve passenger comfort. So, there you go. That was the origin. This is a big story and it goes on and on. So the memory foam was then put in seat belts and harnesses to mitigate that vibration so that it was comfortable. And this helps with the speeds and the turbulence that is then created. So it mimicks and supports through body weight and pressure, and then evenly distributes instead of having direct contact areas that can hurt the body. So, this whole material is called viscoelastic material to shape and absorb and move the contour of each invidual body. Super cool. So, viscoelasticity is a term that was created for this tempur kind of pedic idea. And it’s these two concepts coming together: viscosity and elasticity. So the viscosity is it moves slowly and reluctantly when you put pressure when applied to it. Think of the viscosity of thick honey. If you push on it right away, it doesn’t move, but if you just hold pressure, it moves and shapes. And the elasticity side of it is the ability to stretch and change shape while always returning to the original form. So there are these two concepts that came together called visoelasticity. Mr. Yost started this dynamic system and really created this company around Dynamic Systems Inc., and officially was named the inventor of this new form of foam called tempur foam. And certain medical establishments started to take this visoelasticity cushion material on and orthopedics, seating pads, mattress pads, recovering from injuries and not having pressure on certain things. So, Mr. Yost, the inventor in 1973, was given the technological utilization of the word by NASA, but it was largely created by polyurethane. It was a type of foam, and he was given many, many awards for this whole thing. In the ’80s, then NASA released this tempur foam for commercial development, so outside of NASA, outside of the medical establishment. Now, the Swedish company, Fagerdala, took the technology and created the variation and that variation became known as tempurpedic. So by 1991, this was introduced, the Swedish tempur bed, the first memory foam mattress. And this was in 1991. So not that long ago. Fun facts, Mayo Clinic recommneds obviously and we all recommend that people get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night, that means that per year, you are living and sleeping on your mattress from 2400 over 3000 hours a year your life is spent on a mattress. So just keep that in mind that you’re spending nearly 1/3 of your life sleeping. So obviously, that is super important on many levels but super important as we get into the chemicals around this and what you’re actually taking in. So, here’s the convenience here is your pain relief, spinal alignment, certainly helps with that, pressure point relief because it takes away those points of pain, distributes the body weight over this memory foam and it absorbs kind of this motion absorption, and it’s hypoallergenic. It’s hypoallergenic because it doesn’t have the space of springs and stuff with moisture and molds that can develop in normal mattresses. And we’re gonna give you solutions for this too, by the way, so don’t worry about that. And many of this research and information is in the show notes. So, why should we care? So, these materials are largely off-gassing hazardous fumes. At the end of the day, we could stop there. There was research and it found that 61 different types of chemicals were off-gassing when a lab at Atlanta was the first person to kind of look at what was coming off of these mattresses because largely this polyurethane is petroleum-based. And of these 61 different types of chemicals, most of them were carcinogenic, including benzene and naphthalene. So these things are gnarly. And this is first announced by Walter Bader, the author of Toxic Bedrooms. So if you want to check out that book and dive down deep on the Toxic Bedroom side of it, I haven’t even read that book yet, but I look forward to it, then sitting on 61 untested carcinogenic or largely untested but over 1/3 of your life taking in both through contact and inhalation of toxic compounds. So, memory foam, bad idea. Like, if you’re in the latter part of your life and you’re in a lot of pain and you’re suffering from pain or other diseases, then be my guest, use the memory foam. But if you’re a regular person who’s not suffering under those things, the polyurethane is petroleum based, the volatile organic carcinogenic compounds, you’re breathing in every night for 7 to 9 hours and you’re living on that for 1/3 of your life. So that is where it has a lot of problems. There is a petroleum-based ingredient called polyols, and that is kind of like this bulking agent that they use, this binder. There’s also other blowing agents that they use in introducing carbon to the material. And then there’s also these methylenes, diphenols, MDIs, toluenes, all these other blowing agents, and polyurethane foam agents. And then also the one I’ve covered many times is the flame retardants that are hormone-disrupting and cancer-causing and disturbing for the liver and kidneys. So all of these VOCs convert into toxic gaseous forms of inhalation and off-gassing for years and years and years. So does it hold up to even though you’re out of pain a little bit. There are other forms of addressing those issues, but you’re getting a toxic wash. And this is all looked at by the National Toxicology Program. Internal agencies have researched in cancer. There are many organizations that have looked in this and again our not-so-great friend shows up again and all sorts of kinds of strong formaldehyde as well. So that increases asthma or allergies and lungs and nose and throat cancers, so really, really toxic stuff. He had a good invention but he really didn’t do his homework on the collateral damage, the fatal convenience. So now listen, you can go to organic cottons, pesticide-free stuff, but again, if you’re using conventional cottons and all of that stuff, keep in mind, that 60% of all insecticides are used in conventional cotton farming. 16% of the world’s insecticides is used and sprayed in conventional cotton. So again, I’m not just a tree hugger pounding my drum, this stuff is seriously toxic. And then 7% of all the pesticides are used in conventional cotton growing. So again, when you’re looking for alternatives, you have to keep looking and find organic alternatives. And large quantities of chlorine, toxic dyes and other finishing chemicals are used in the process of these crops. So again, be very, very wary of those things. So I’m not gonna go too far down the flammability side of these things because that’s pretty gnarly. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers, PBDEs, these flame retardants are neurotoxic, carcinogenic. They’ve been looked at and studied tremendously, and it’s amazing to me that they still allow that in. By the way, I already said in other episodes that it doesn’t stop a fire. The flame retardants were created in the ’70s because of cigarettes lingering on a bed when someone would fall asleep. So largely, they don’t stop fires, and this was all the fire masters already have reported. And again, I have done my assessment on those things. So children are extremely vulnerable for all these toxic volatile organic compounds because all of their developing organs, their sensitive skins, and all of these pollutants that both inhalation as well as transdermally going right through the skin through being in contact with it. Increases asthma, allergic reactions, ischemias, psoriasis, and then obviously headaches, nausea, eye, nose, throat irritation, kidney, liver, central nervous system damage, loss of coordination. So again, you’re trying to look and realize that the kids are under threat. You have to look in what they’re doing every day making sure your kids invest a little more money in organic chemical-free mattresses. Obviously, the environmental working group has done a tremendous amount of research on that and you want to look for nothing less than 95% of certified organic cotton. And also look for what’s called the global organic textile standard, GOTS certification. This certification means that that mattress cannot be made with polyurethane foam or contained other hazardous chemicals. This is why I love these organizations that are looking out for you, so you have to do less work. You just have to make sure that you’re finding these standards and supporting these companies. There’s also organic latex and look for the global organic latex standard, GOLS. Again, I have all this in the show notes. You don’t want polyurethane foam, you don’t want memory foam, you don’t want flame retardants, absolutely not. You think you’re doing a good thing. Yes, I want flame retardants. It doesn’t work, people. It is far more detriment to your children’s health, to your health than anything else. Question these things. Stop these things. Do not use your hard-earned money to support these things. So you want low and tested volatile organic chemical certifications, low VOC certifications. So there are many other options here, natural latex from a rubber tree. So unlike polyurethane, latex is less likely to emit high levels over this VOC and you can get certified latex of low VOCs. It resists mold and dust and mites and all of that stuff and it is as durable as petroleum-based foam. So much better for the environment and so much better for you. Organic cotton, like I’ve said, organic wool is fantastic. So there you go. Although a great invention and it takes away some pain when you’re laying in bed a lot, there are other alternatives, there are other ways to get out of pain. Obviously, that’s not the source of causing pain when you’re in pain. So take care of yourself. Using this memory foam is a really, really bad idea. I know this. I know that you can spend your hard-earned money on better gifting products for yourself and your family, specially if you’re spending 1/3 of your life on a mattress, then you want a mattress that is not causing you harm. So, remember, I love you and have a kick-ass day.
Darin: Thanks for tuning in everyone. I hope that left you feeling inspired to take a closer look at the everyday choices you’re making and how they could be impacting your health and even the planet. If you want to learn more about life’s fatal conveniences, head over to fatalconveniences.com. You can sign up for the exclusive access to Fatal Conveniences episodes, news, insights, and more. And all this great stuff gets sent each week straight to your inbox, making it really easy. Now, that’s a convenience without the negative side effects. It only takes a few seconds to join. Just fill in the form and take that amazing step towards making better choices. Remember, small changes can have big impact. So, keep diving my friends, keep diving. And if you haven’t had a chance to check out the interview, I released earlier on the week, here’s what you missed:
Julie: As much as I had always been sold on this idea of fight or flight being the key to survival. And survival of the fittest means that you can attack or retreat, but the truth is, it has always been the case even since we were on the savanna and also now that the real key to our survival is not attacking or running away, but actually staying, cooperating, collaborating, communing, that the way we really survive and thrive is when we are social and communal. We’re social primates and humans are categorized as obligatorily gregarious, which means that we have to be friendly, we have to be social, or we will not survive. And there is this chemistry that comes with this feeling of connection, where you know you’re safe, and you know that the group will take care of you. And that good chemistry is sort of the thing we’re all looking for.
Darin: This episode is produced by my team at Must Amplify, an audio marketing company that specializes in giving a voice to a brand and making sure the right people hear it. If you would like or are thinking about doing a podcast or even would like a strategy session to add your voice to your brand in a powerful way, go to www.mustamplify.com/darin. That’s www.mustamplify.com/darin.