Health Risks of the Serta Memory Foam Mattress Topper

Written by holly huntington
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A prevalence of asthma in women---and chronic bronchitis in men and women---resulted when manufacturing workers were subjected to low levels of a chemical used in foam mattress topper production. But other chemicals used on foam bedding products, including those made by Serta, might have health risks too.

Foam Production

One of the chemicals used in the production of foam bedding products is methylene diphenyl isocyanate (MDI). MDI is also used in the manufacturing process of plastics and pesticides.

MDI can be hazardous to the respiratory system in humans---even in small amounts---and can be carcinogenic in rats, based on research findings published by the California government in 2000.

Methylene Diphenyl Isocyanate (MDI)

In an article written by Dionne Shearer, dated January 1, 2008 (and published on the online website, the following statement from the United Auto Workers Health and Safety Department brochure is quoted about MDI, "Isocyanates irritate all living tissues they touch, especially the mucous membranes of the eyes and respiratory tracts."

This article focused on a death due to inhalation of MDI during the manufacturing process of a bed liner for a vehicle; however, MDI inhalation---and sensitivity---can take place during other manufacturing processes too, like foam mattress topper production.

Serta and Chemicals

MDI could potentially pose health risks including respiratory problems (like asthma) if an individual is sensitive to these chemicals---and they are still present on the foam mattress and topper after manufacturing. But it is unknown if traces of MDI remain on mattress toppers and mattresses after production. However, it is known that other similarly toxic chemicals are present on these products, including those manufactured by Serta, according to a Washington Post article.

Chemical Health Risk

The second largest mattress and bedding manufacturer in the United States is Serta, according to a Washington Post article published in May of 2005. And Serta is leading the way in compliance to the Consumer Product Safety Commission's request that mattresses be resistant to any open-flame type of fire. In fact, Serta began using a fire-blocking chemical system on all of its products (including foam mattress toppers) before the official ruling went into effect in 2005.

But this compliance comes at the cost of subjecting consumers to harmful chemicals which are known to be toxic, according to Mark Strobel, a foam mattress manufacturer quoted in the Post article. According to Strobel, flame retardant chemicals like antimony, boron and chlorine have not been sufficiently tested to know what type of health risks result from long term exposure.


Serta group vice president, Al Klancnik, stated in the Post article that there is no reason for concern about the toxicity of flame-retardant chemicals---or their potential health risks in regards to foam mattress products made by Serta. Klancnik claims that mattress pads and sheets block any exposure to the boric acid used by Serta.

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