Chances are you’re surrounded by fiberglass in your home. It’s a common building material, particularly prevalent in building insulation.
Well, it now appears to have worked its way out of the walls and into your inner sleep sanctum.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the safety of fiberglass in mattresses. Some people swear it, while others think it’s a health hazard.
So, what’s the truth? Is fiberglass in mattresses safe? Why is it even there in the first place? Can it harm you while you’re sleeping?
In this article, I’ll explore both sides of the argument and find out once and for all if it’s harmful to sleep on a mattress with fiberglass particles inside.
Fiberglass is made from fine, thread-like fibers of plastic reinforced with tiny strands of glass.
It’s used in various products, including insulation, boats, cars, and yes…even mattresses!
Fiberglass is a popular material for mattress construction (especially memory foam mattresses) for two reasons:
When it comes to mattresses, a thin layer of fiberglass is usually found in the outer cover or wrapped around a memory foam mattress like a protective sock.
Fiberglass is an excellent fireproofing material because it doesn’t burn. It has a very high melting point of between 1,225°C and 1,360°C.
This means that even if your mattress does catch fire, the fiberglass will prevent the flames from getting out of control.
There are two main problems with having fiberglass particles in your mattress:
There are multiple dangers associated with fiberglass in mattresses.
Skin contact with fiberglass can cause irritation, redness, and itchiness.
You may experience more severe reactions like rashes and welts if you have sensitive skin.
If the fibers get into your lungs, they can cause irritation and inflammation.
This can lead to various respiratory problems, including asthma and bronchitis.
Another primary concern is that when a mattress containing fiberglass becomes damaged, the tiny glass fibers can become airborne and contaminate your entire home.
This is especially dangerous for small children and pets.
The contamination can get so bad for some people that they’re forced to move out of their homes.
If you sleep on a fiberglass-contaminated mattress, you will have a ton of fiberglass shards on your pajamas, etc.
Washing the contaminated clothing and bedding will contaminate your washing machine drum, filters, etc.
This will eventually lead to all your clothes becoming contaminated with fiberglass every time you run the washing machine.
If you find yourself with a fiberglass-contaminated home and cannot move out, the clean-up process can be very time-consuming and expensive.
Here are a few tips if you need to clean up fiberglass yourself:
Fiberglass fibers are so tiny that you’ll likely struggle to see and clean them up 100%.
You might have to eventually hire a professional company that specializes in dealing with this type of problem.
Always check the label or website when buying a new mattress to see what materials it’s made from. If it contains fiberglass, consider looking for an alternative.
Some less than reputable manufacturers will try to hide the word fiberglass or use greenwashing tactics to mislead you.
Look out for words such as:
If you’re unsure whether or not a mattress contains fiberglass, don’t be afraid to ask the manufacturer or retailer.
They should be able to give you a straight answer. If they can’t (or won’t), that’s a red flag.
The price and country of manufacture can often give you a quick insight as to whether or not a mattress contains fiberglass.
A non-removable mattress cover is often a sign that it contains fiberglass.
Fiberglass is added to mattress covers to meet fire regulations and, as mentioned earlier, removing and washing these covers is a bad idea.
With this in mind, manufacturers of fiberglass mattress covers often make them non-removable.
Looking out for respected third-party certifications can help you avoid fiberglass and other toxic chemicals and materials.
Some of the best that you can find on mattresses include:
You can find out more about these and other eco-friendly certifications here.
So, you’ve checked the label and realized that your old mattress does contain fiberglass.
Don’t panic. It can still potentially be used…if you’re careful!
I’ve already said this, but it definitely needs repeating.
If your mattress contains fiberglass, do not remove the mattress cover for any reason!
If the cover gets dirty, simply spot clean as best you can with warm water and planet-friendly dish soap.
Not buying new things unnecessarily is one of the cornerstones of sustainability.
However, if your fiberglass mattress is damaged to such an extent that a mattress topper or protector is unable to contain the fiberglass, then it’s definitely time to recycle your old mattress and get a new one.
All mattresses sold in the U.S. must pass the Standard 16 CF4 1633 Federal Flammability Test. To pass, they must be able to withstand an open flame for at least 70 seconds without igniting.
Fiberglass is one of the cheapest ways of achieving this, but there are alternatives (some with different health risks and some with no health risks at all).
A straightforward way to create a fiberglass-free mattress is to use wool.
Wool is a naturally flame-resistant material that’s also eco-friendly, biodegradable, and hypoallergenic.
It’s also great at regulating body temperature, making it ideal for hot sleepers.
Another eco-friendly material that manufacturers can use in a fiberglass-free mattress is hemp.
Like wool, it’s biodegradable and hypoallergenic.
Some mattress manufacturers use chemicals to make their mattresses fireproof.
Although they help create a fiberglass-free mattress, some of these chemicals have been linked to several health risks, so they’re something to avoid if possible.
For example, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) strongly advises pregnant women and young children to avoid organohalogen flame retardants (OFRs). They warn that "compounds in this chemical group have been linked to a list of serious health issues, including decreased IQ, learning deficits and hyperactivity in children, impaired memory function, cancer, reproductive problems, and hormone and immune disorders."
According to the Washington State Department of Health, “When a person inhales fiberglass, larger fibers may be trapped in the upper airway. Smaller fibers may be inhaled deep into the lungs. Inhaled fibers are removed from the body partially through sneezing or coughing, and through the body's defense mechanisms. Fiberglass that reaches the lungs may remain in the lungs or the thoracic region. Ingested fiberglass is removed from the body via feces”.
No, not all memory foam mattresses have fiberglass particles in them. However, it’s essential to check the material list of any mattress you’re considering buying, just to be sure. A memory foam mattress is particularly flammable and needs a high level of flame retardant.
According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, “there is no evidence that fiberglass causes cancer in people. Animal studies have shown an increased risk of cancer when fiberglass fibers were implanted in the lung tissue of rats, but these studies are controversial because of how the fibers were implanted. Based on these animal studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified some fibers used in fiberglass as possible human carcinogens (cancer-causing agents)”.
So, is fiberglass a safe material to use in memory foam mattresses? Yes and no!
If you have sensitive skin or respiratory problems, you should avoid sleeping on a mattress with fiberglass particles inside.
If you’re unsure whether you’re allergic to fiberglass, then it’s best to err on the side of caution and choose a different type of mattress or add the additional protective layer of a mattress protector.
There are plenty of safe and comfortable mattresses out there, so there’s no need to take any unnecessary risks.
Do you own mattresses containing fiberglass? Are you going to replace them immediately and buy fiberglass-free mattresses? Or are you happy keeping them and just taking extra precautions?
How much extra would you pay for a fiberglass-free mattress with a natural wool inner mattress cover? Drop me a line and let me know.