Despite latex foam’s vast superiority, polyurethane foam mattresses are less expensive and widely available. That may explain why they are gaining popularity these days with bed-in-a-box concepts like Purple, Casper, or with the “created by NASA” hype around memory-foams. Many people must take product marketing at its face-value and not look at independent sources of information when doing their research, because why would anyone buy these products if they knew the facts?
The following is a summary of information gathered primarily from www.oecotextiles.com “What is CertiPUR?” post.
CertiPUR is polyurethane foam. The Alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam (AFPF) owns the trademark CertiPUR. It is a joint program of The AFPF and the Polyurethane Foam Association that attempts to allay fears about the material. CertiPUR is NOT a third-party or independent certification, it is a marketing strategy created by the industry itself. So, like too many certifications available, it does not have much, if any, real value.
But one can understand why the industry needs to mitigate fears about polyurethane foam. There is a reason it is called a petroleum-based foam- because it is a by-product of the same process used to make petroleum from crude oil. Polyurethane foam is primarily made of polyols and diisocyanates. Polyols are created through a chemical reaction involving methyloxirane. The diisocyanate used is typically toluene diisocyanate or “TDI”. Do these chemicals sound like ones you would want to sleep on every night?
-Methyloxirane and TDI are considered carcinogens by the State of California
-Both chemicals are considered toxic substances by Canada’s Environmental Protection Agency
-Both chemicals have been proven to cause mammary tumors.
These substances don’t stay isolated and away from you. The foam degrades over time and tiny particles become part of the dust in your home. You may unknowingly ingest or inhale them.
Yet CertiPUR has a list of criteria for foam to meet its standards and convince you and me that polyurethane foam is safe enough to use in your home. The criteria don’t address the above hazards.
Instead, the criteria are comprised of the following:
-“Made without ozone depleters” (but US manufacturers do not use ozone depleters)
-“Made without mercury, lead or other heavy metals (None of these are typically used to make foam)
-“Made without PBDE flame retardants (yet I have heard fire marshals describe polyurethane foam as “solid gasoline” or “solid accelerant”)
-“Made without formaldehyde” ( formaldehyde has never been used as a raw material in foam)
-“Made without phthalates (CertiPUR bans only seven out of twenty-nine phthalates)
-“Low VOC emissions (“low” to CertiPUR means .5ppm. GreenGuard Gold limits VOCs to .2ppm)
We recommend not putting too much stock in certifications (with exceptions noted below), but rather learning exactly what is in a mattress, and then researching those materials. This can be easier said than done with latex foam, as there are many ways to make latex foam. There is one good acronym to look for: GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard), the independent organization that certifies organic latex. The organic certification for fabrics is GOTS, and another certification that has merit is “Oeko-Tex”.