Are Latex Mattresses Safe or Can They Harm Your Health?

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There's been a lot of talk in recent years about the benefits of buying a latex mattress, with many people talking up their environmental friendliness and superior comfort.

But are latex mattresses safe, or can they actually harm your health?

There are two main types of latex - organic and synthetic.

As you're about to find out, they couldn't be more different when it comes to the materials they are made of, and their potential effects on your family's wellbeing...

How are Latex Mattresses Made?

Latex mattresses are made from latex foam, which comes from rubber trees and is created using a process called vulcanization.

First, the rubber tree sap is tapped and collected. If the tree has been grown without the use of pesticides or fertilizers then the latex can be classed as organic. The sap is then whipped into a foamy consistency and poured into molds.

Next, the latex foam is vulcanized, or cured, using either heat (in the case of natural organic latex) or chemicals. This process strengthens the material and makes it more resistant to breakdown.

Finally, the latex foam is cut to size and covered with fabric to create the mattress. Latex mattresses are known for their durability, resilience, and ability to contour to the body, making them a popular choice for many sleepers.

All-Natural vs Synthetic Latex Mattresses

So what is the difference between natural and synthetic latex?

All-natural latex mattresses are made with, you guessed it, natural latex. This means that the latex comes from rubber trees and is then processed to create the latex foam used in mattresses.

Synthetic latex mattresses, on the other hand, are made with a man-made latex called styrene-butadiene rubber, or SBR.

While SBR is similar to natural latex in terms of its properties, it is not as durable and tends to break down faster.

In addition, synthetic latex often contains chemicals, adhesives, and fillers that can off-gas and cause health problems. For these reasons, many people prefer all-natural latex mattresses.

what makes latex mattresses safe

Is Latex Healthy To Sleep On?

When it comes to the health effects of your mattress, there is a big difference between synthetic and natural latex.

Can Latex Mattresses Make You Sick?

It is true that some people may be allergic to either synthetic or natural latex mattresses.

Symptoms of an allergic reaction include itching, redness, and swelling. If you experience these symptoms, you should see a doctor.

Natural latex mattresses can also cause health issues if they are not cleaned properly. Dust mites and other allergens can build up in the mattress, causing respiratory problems and exacerbating allergies.

If you are concerned about your health, you should always consult a doctor before purchasing a natural latex mattress.

Is Natural Latex Toxic to Breathe?

Many people are concerned about the potential health risks of using natural latex products. While it is true that latex can cause allergic reactions in some people, there is no evidence that it is toxic to breathe.

In fact, natural latex is often used in medical applications precisely because it is so safe. For example, latex gloves are commonly used in hospitals and clinics to protect against the spread of infection.

Latex mattresses are also widely used, as they provide excellent support and pressure relief. So, while latex may not be suitable for everyone, there is no need to worry about its safety.

Does a Latex Mattress Contain VOCs?

VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are chemicals that are released into the air. They can come from a variety of sources, including paint, cleaning products, and building materials.

Many people are concerned about the health effects of VOCs, as they can cause a variety of respiratory problems.

One common question is whether latex mattresses contain VOCs. The answer depends on the type of latex mattress you're looking at.

Organic latex is a natural material that is derived from rubber trees and contains no added chemicals. It does not emit VOCs, and it is also resistant to mold and mildew. As a result, organic latex mattresses are a good choice for people who are concerned about exposure to VOCs.

However, it is important to note that synthetic latex mattresses may be treated with chemical flame retardants that do emit VOCs. These chemicals are typically used to fire-proof the mattress or add other features.

If you are concerned about exposure to VOCs, you should check with the manufacturer to find out if the mattress has been treated with any chemicals.

Do Latex Mattresses Off-Gas?

Many people are concerned about the possibility of toxic chemicals being released into the air from their mattresses. This process, known as off-gassing, can occur with a variety of different materials, including foam, fabric, and even wood.

Organic latex mattresses are considered to be one of the safest options available. This is because latex is a natural material that is not treated with harsh chemicals.

In addition, eco-friendly latex mattresses are typically encased in an organic cotton cover, which eliminates the risk of toxic chemicals being released into the air from the cover itself.

As a result, latex mattresses are an excellent option for those who are looking for a safe and healthy sleeping environment.

Is Latex a Carcinogen?

Natural latex is not carcinogenic. It is not chemically treated and does not contain any added toxic substances such as pesticides or formaldehyde, and is therefore considered safe.

However, synthetic latex is produced using a variety of chemicals and can contain polyurethane foam. This can release toxic fumes over time as it breaks down, and some of these can be potential carcinogens.

Therefore, if you want to be certain that you are not exposing either yourself or your family to potentially cancer-causing substances at night time, you should choose a natural latex mattress.

Should Kids Sleep on Latex Mattresses?

Due to the potential presence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other chemicals in synthetic latex, I personally would not recommend that children sleep on this type of mattress.

However, none of these substances are present in organic or all-natural latex mattresses, therefore these are an ideal choice for children of all ages.

You can find our selection of the best organic crib mattresses here.

Non-Toxic Mattress Certifications

If you are looking to buy a new mattress, or just confirming that the one you already have is safe, you can check to see if it has one or more of the following certifications.

  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) - To gain GOTS certification, latex must contain a minimum of 95% certified organic material. The remaining 5% cannot contain any harmful chemicals.
  • Global Organic Latex Standard (GOLS) - Similar to GOTS, GOLS certifies a minimum of 95% organic content. Many eco-friendly mattresses carry both GOLS and GOTS certifications.
  • Oeko-Tex Standard 100 - Certifies that a textile product has been tested and proven that it does not contain any VOCs, carcinogenic dyes, or other hazardous chemicals.
  • Eco-INSTITUT - Tests for a range of harmful chemicals and certifies that a product contains zero traces of them, and will not emit any harmful substances into your bedroom via off-gassing.
  • Made Safe - Certifies that all a product's ingredients have been checked and there is no evidence or suspicion that they can cause harm to your health.
  • Greenguard / Greenguard Gold - An air quality certification that verifies that a product does not emit any VOCs or formaldehyde. The Gold version has even stricter requirements than the standard Greenguard.
  • OTCO - An organic cotton certification that confirms that the cotton used on your mattress covering or lining has been grown according to acceptable organic standards.

You can find more details of these and hundreds more eco-certifications in our ultimate guide to eco-labeling.

Toxic Chemicals to Watch for in Polyurethane Foam Mattresses

Polyurethane foam is made from a mixture of Isocyanates and Polyols, plus various other additives and chemical flame retardants.

It is beyond the scope of this article to provide a full chemical breakdown, however, you can find more information here and here.

Why Choose Organic or Natural Latex Mattresses?

organic latex health benefits

One of the most important decisions when choosing a new mattress is whether to opt for an organic or natural latex mattress or a synthetic latex mattress. There are several reasons why I strongly recommend you buy organic if you can afford it.

Sustainability

For starters, they are made from renewable materials. Unlike traditional mattresses, which are made from petroleum-based foams, organic and natural latex mattresses are made from rubber tree sap. This means that they are biodegradable, and have a much smaller environmental footprint.

Health

Then of course there are the health benefits. As we've discussed already, a synthetic latex mattress may off-gas harmful chemicals throughout its lifetime, some of which can be carcinogenic. But with organically produced latex, you have none of these worries.

Comfort

You'll also find that organic and natural latex mattresses are extremely comfortable. The material is naturally springy and supportive, and it conforms to the contours of your body for a perfect night's sleep.

Durability

Finally, organic and natural latex mattresses are extremely durable. They can last for years, even with regular use. This makes them a wise investment for anyone who wants to get the most out of their mattress purchase.

So if you're in the market for a new mattress, be sure to consider an organic or natural latex model. You'll sleep better knowing you've made a smart, environmentally-friendly choice.

Cons of a Natural Latex Mattress

The main downside of buying an organic or natural latex mattress is the price.

See also: Is an Organic Mattress Worth the Money

It is an inescapable fact that organic materials cost more to produce than synthetic, mass-produced materials, and latex is no different.

This is reflected in the fact that eco-friendly mattresses are generally more expensive to buy and not everybody can afford the upfront cost.

However, since they do last longer, they actually offer better value for money in the long term, and they have the additional health and environmental benefits described above.

Latex Mattresses vs Memory Foam Mattresses

Are you trying to decide between a latex mattress and a memory foam mattress? Both types of mattresses have their own unique benefits that can make them ideal for different sleepers.

Latex mattresses are often lauded for their bouncy feel, which can make them easier to move around on. They also tend to be more supportive than memory foam mattresses, making them a better choice for people with back pain.

See also: Pros and Cons of Latex Mattresses

Memory foam mattresses, on the other hand, are known for their ability to contour to your body and provide deep pressure relief. This can make them a good option for people who suffer from aches and pains or who need extra support during pregnancy.

If you're still unsure which type of mattress is right for you, it's always a good idea to consult with a sleep specialist.

Can a Latex Mattress get Bed Bugs?

Although there are many benefits of natural vs synthetic latex, both types of latex mattress can still get bed bugs. In fact, there aren't any mattresses that are immune to these pests.

If you think you have bed bugs or are worried about the chance of getting them, you can treat your mattress with an eco-friendly bed bug spray.

Preventative treatment is often better than cure, so it's worth keeping one of these products handy and using them every few months to help keep bed bugs away.

The Final Word

When it comes to the health and safety of latex mattresses, there is a world of difference between organic and synthetic.

Synthetic mattress types utilize adhesives, flame retardants, and other chemicals that can off-gas, emitting potentially harmful substances into the air while you sleep.

That's why organic and natural latex mattresses are a popular choice for people looking for a safe and healthy sleep surface. They offer many benefits over other types of mattresses, such as being resistant to dust mites and mold, and containing no harmful chemicals.

Organic latex is also an environmentally friendly material that can be recycled.

However, there are some potential health risks associated with latex allergies in a minority of people. If you’re considering purchasing a latex mattress, it’s important to know the symptoms of latex allergy just in case you're one of the unlucky ones who is affected.

Otherwise, they represent a healthy choice both for you and the environment.

With her Master of Science in Renewable Energy Engineering (MSREE) from Oregon Tech, Steph is supremely well qualified to write on all aspects of renewable energy. She has already achieved a zero carbon footprint and her goal is to help as many other people as possible do the same. Her other hobbies include music, yoga, swimming and horror movies.
Stephanie Cole
With her Master of Science in Renewable Energy Engineering (MSREE) from Oregon Tech, Steph is supremely well qualified to write on all aspects of renewable energy. She has already achieved a zero carbon footprint and her goal is to help as many other people as possible do the same. Her other hobbies include music, yoga, swimming and horror movies.

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