Investigated: Children's mattresses can release carcinogenic substances

Investigated: Children's mattresses can release carcinogenic substances

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Health risks from children's mattresses?

Some children's mattresses can harm children's health because they are warmed up by body temperature and thus emit dangerous pollutants that have already been linked to cancer during research.

The latest study by the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology found that child mattresses can release dangerous pollutants if the mattresses are warmed by body temperature. The results of the study were published in the English-language journal "Environmental Science and Technology".

What do volatile organic compounds do?

Exposure to so-called volatile organic compounds (VOC) can be toxic and has already been linked to headache, nausea, liver and kidney damage, nerve problems and cancer. The tiny particles can become a health threat if they are released from hundreds of everyday household items such as furniture, candles and carpets.

Asthma from inhaling volatile organic compounds?

The researchers found that the materials from which mattresses are made release higher amounts of the compounds when heated to body temperature. People can then inhale the harmful substances because their faces are directly over the substance. Numerous studies have accused volatile organic compounds of causing asthma in children and exacerbating them in adults. Inhalation of volatile organic compounds can irritate eyes, nose and throat and cause breathing difficulties.

Eight different mattresses were examined

In the current study, eight different children's mattresses were examined in detail. The researchers analyzed how the temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide concentration, which increases when lying on the mattress for several hours, affect several volatile organic compounds that are released by the mattress. The researchers placed parts of the mattresses in a chamber from which they took air samples.

Mattresses released 18 volatile organic compounds

The eight mattresses released fairly similar amounts of 18 volatile organic compounds, with the exception of one flame-retardant compound that was only released from an infant mattress, the authors report. Body temperatures contributed significantly to the release of volatile organic compounds. Infants and young children who inhale some of these compounds, such as acetaldehyde, formaldehyde and benzene, could be at increased health risk. Another compound with a potential health risk was so-called butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), which was also found in mattresses.

Can contact with volatile organic compounds be avoided?

Exposure to volatile organic compounds is practically unavoidable due to the large number of emission sources (including vinyl floors, cleaning agents, cosmetics and hair sprays, for example). Volatile organic compounds in products are slowly released over months or even years. An example of this is a color that initially has a strong smell and evaporates over time. Not all of these compounds are harmful to health, there are many volatile organic compounds that are harmless. There are indications that volatile organic compounds are increasing in residential areas because residential buildings enclose them due to lack of ventilation. If air is trapped in a house, there is a possibility that significantly higher concentrations can be reached.

More research is needed

The health risks of volatile organic compounds from mattresses are low, but concerned parents can instead choose a cotton, wool, or feather-based mattress that is made with less volatile organic compounds. The researchers said that further studies on the potential health effects of low exposure to volatile organic compounds were needed. (as)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Kira Oz, Bareket Merav, Sabach Sara, Dubowski Yael: Volatile Organic Compound Emissions from Polyurethane Mattresses under Variable Environmental Conditions, in Environmental Science and Technology (query: July 12, 2019), Environmental Science and Technology

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