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Memory foam, originally developed for seriously comfortable cushioning in NASA planes in the 1960's, has become a pillow and mattress favorite amongst consumers. While it is powerfully comfortable (it has even been used in hospitals to prevent bedsores) memory foam is not eco-friendly. In fact this chemical-based cushion is not the type of product you want to be spending one-third of your life lying around on. So, why is memory foam so terrible and what's so great about choosing eco memory foam instead?
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Memory foam in theory is a good idea, if environmental and health concerns were not an issue. The problem is that these mattresses are made from polyurethane, which is a synthetic plastic derived from crude oil. To manufacture polyurethane foam quite a few chemicals are used. The end product is used for furniture, automobile seats, home insulation, foam mattresses and other items.
Very useful, but unfortunately products such as memory foam mattresses not only require an inefficient amount of energy to produce and introduce chemicals into the environment during manufacturing, but they also emit toxins such as volatile organic compounds (VOC's). With toxic chemicals such as dimethylformamide, acetone (can affect fertility and reproductive health, the brain and nervous system, and linked to organ system toxicity), and tetrachloroethane (linked to organ system toxicity) in synthetic memory foam, why would you want to lie in bed every night exposed?
Sure, in small doses probably nothing will happen, and maybe even over a lifetime of sleeping with chemical exposure you will not be severely affected, but with inadequate research as to the potential long-term effects of long-term exposure, why not play it safe by going natural and toxin-free. Not only is this beneficial for the earth, which will not be exposed to the toxins from the manufacture and the disposal of memory foam mattresses, but it is beneficial for you and your family.
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What are the options for eco-friendly memory foam? While there are products on the market that are 'better' than synthetic memory foam, containing a small percentage of natural materials in place of petrochemicals, these mattresses are really not that eco-friendly. They still contain chemicals, simply not as many. Essentia is the manufacturer of the real natural memory foam. Their mattresses are similar to synthetic memory foam in function, but are made from latex, essential oils, and other plant-derived ingredients. These beds are also durable, breathable, and biodegradable.
Another option is to simply buy a latex mattress. Latex is a natural, sustainable product that comes from the sap of rubber trees. Latex mattresses are comfortable, long-lasting and completely non-toxic (as long as they are not finished with chemicals). Like memory foam, latex conforms to your body weight and is extremely comfortable. Natural Care and Lifekind are two manufacturers of eco-friendly latex mattresses.
Memory foam could be great. Eco memory foam is great. If you want a natural, eco-friendly sleep and are concerned about the negative effects of chemical-based products on the environment then look into these green options when in the market for a new bed.
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"Forty-Year-Old Foam Springs Back with New Benefits." (NASA Spinoff) <http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto/Spinoff2005/ch_6.html>
Environmental Working Group <http://www.ewg.org/chemindex/list>
Planet Green <v>
photo by: Back Garage (CC/flickr) <http://www.flickr.com/photos/back_garage/3105878816/sizes/m/in/photostream/>