Memory foam is polyurethane with added chemicals allowing for viscosity and density. It is usually denser than other foam mattresses, making it more supportive and heavier. Memory foam softens in reaction to body heat and this allows it to mold to a warm body in a few minutes.
It was originally developed by NASA for use in the astronauts seats. The company who manufactured memory foam for NASA realised the potential for memory foam in mattresses and patented it for use as a mainstream material used in bedding products. Since the patent expired, other companies have started manufacturing memory foam, often to just as high standard. However, some manufacturers in China, the Far East and parts or Europe make lower quality memory foams, which are said to contain high levels of toxins and do not comply with EU/UK fire regulations.
So why is it a risk to put a baby on a memory foam mattress or pillow?
In our opinion, we as a company (and as parents) are not alone is advising against using memory foam products in a baby’s sleeping environment. The manufacturers even caution about leaving babies and small children unattended on memory foam mattresses, because of the difficulties in turning over, and risks of suffocation.
Unless it is proven beyond all doubt that it is safe and beneficial to use, we are happy not to sell memory foams wedges and products. There are questions about toxicity, support, carbon dioxide pooling and breath-ability that remain unanswered. Sleeping or Co-sleeping on memory foams put the infant at great risk of suffocation. Laying on memory foam can be compared to laying on soft sand, where it shapes to your body, and stays there. This means that the nose and mouth can easily be engulfed.
As well as the physical properties of laying in memory foam, there are also chemical risks. The USA Environmental Protection Agency published two documents proposing National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAP) concerning hazardous emissions produced during the making of flexible polyurethane foam products (memory foams).
The HAP emissions associated with polyurethane foam production (memory foam) include:
- methylene chloride
- toluene diisocyanate
- methyl chloroform
- methylene diphenyl diisocyanate
- propylene oxide
- methyl ethyl ketone
- methanol and toluene
Methylene chloride makes up over 98% of the total HAP emissions from this industry and short-term exposure to high concentrations of methylene chloride irritates the nose and throat.
The bottom line for us is, that memory foam, can be lethal. If an infant rolls or turns and presses their face against the soft surface, air passages can be blocked, causing the infant to struggling with breathing. Babies can also “re-breathe” their own carbon dioxide, which is linked to SIDS.