Many mattresses contain polyurethane foam.  In a previous post I pointed out the problems with polyurethane foam, and how the “CertiPUR-US” certification can’t be trusted because it is administered by the Alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam, Inc., a foam-industry organization.

As a reminder:

  • Polyurethane foam is made from potentially carcinogenic chemicals, and the flame retardants that are required for it to be used in bedding make it even more toxic. Polyurethane foam breaks down over time and can pollute indoor air and also become part of indoor dust.
  • It does not decompose. It only deteriorates into smaller and smaller particles.
  • Polyurethane foam is made from crude oil, a non-renewable source.

Now I’d like to expand on that topic and tell you the truth about the much-touted soy-foam.  Many companies advertise that the use of soy-foam  produces fewer greenhouse gases, reduces reliance on petroleum and saves energy.

Companies that use it will claim that their regular foam mattresses are made from “soy-based foam”.  But when you read the fine print you will see that the foam is described as having only 20% soy-foam.  But in reality only 10% of the foam’s volume is soy-based, or bio-based, foam.  That’s because polyurethane foam is about half polyol and half isocyanates by volume, and the isocyanates don’t contain any soy, that really means that only 10% of the total volume of the foam is soy-based.  So 90% is just regular polyurethane foam.

In addition, the foam industry claims that soy-based polyols use 23% less energy to make.   But if only 10% of the foam’s volume is soy-based, then a 23% of energy savings on 10% of the polyurethane foam is actually only 4.6% less energy used for the given volume.

And you probably know that soy is mostly a GMO, but have you heard about “Soylandia”?  It’s a giant swath of soy-producing land in Brazil.  According to Greanpeace, Cargill’s rush to establish soy plantations in Brazil is a leading cause of Amazon rainforest destruction.

Soy foam , according to Cargill itself, is “not more biodegradable than traditional petroleum-based cushioning”, which is to say soy foam is not biodegradable at all.

According to o ecotextiles,

Pretending to offer a ‘soy based’ foam allows these corporations to cloak themselves in a green blanket and masquerade as environmentally responsible corporations when in practice they are not.  By highlighting small petroleum savings, they conveniently distract the public from the fact that this product’s manufacture and use continues to threaten human health and poses serious disposal problems.  Aside from replacing a small portion of petroleum polyols, the production of polyurethane based foams with soy added continues to rely heavily on the “the workhorse of the polyurethane foam industry”, cancer-causing toluene diisocyanate.

And so the “greenwashing” of polyurethane foam continues.

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