Are Foam Pillows Dangerous?

Written by jen davis
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Are Foam Pillows Dangerous?
Foam pillows may cause health problems. (Joe Madeira/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Foam pillows have become common because they are supposed to be more comfortable and supportive than traditional pillows. Foam pillow advocates say that the pillows can help improve the quality of sleep for people who have problems such as sleep apnoea and snoring. Unfortunately there are some negative aspects to foam pillows that may be dangerous or cause health problems, depending on how they were made and what chemicals and products were used to create the foam.

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Foam Pillow

A foam pillow is a pillow made out of a substance called polyurethane. It holds its shape and will contour to fit the head of the person using it. The density of the foam allows it to displace underneath a person's head rather than spring back against the pressure like traditional pillows. Most foam pillows are also coated in a flame retardant chemical of some kind because polyurethane is highly flammable.


Polyurethane foam pillows tend to have a decidedly chemical smell to them when they are purchased and taken out of their plastic wrappers. The smell is natural for them as they are chemically made and treated. Most manufacturers recommend allowing the pillow some time to air out, but the chemical smell may cause irritation for those who suffer from allergies or who are sensitive to chemical odours.

Toxins and Carcinogens

The smell of the polyurethane pillows and mattresses is indicative of another problem. These foam bedding products may emit out the toxins and carcinogens that they have been made and treated with. Individuals who are sensitive to those emissions may experience health problems and allergies reactions. Symptoms include headaches, eye irritation and sinus problems as well as nose and throat problems. Long-term side effects are unknown but may include cancers and long-term health problems.


A significant amount of the dangers related to foam pillows can be reduced or eliminated by making sure you purchase a high-quality item from a reputable retailer. The cheaper the products and chemicals that are used to manufacture the item are, the lower quality they will be. Lower quality products tend to have more problems, more fillers and are not always using the most cutting edge, best tested components.

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