Mattress Off-Gassing: What It Is and Why It Is Dangerous

Family of four laying on a bed

Off-gassing sounds like something that might happen in a chemistry lab or maybe even at your local car mechanic, right? But it actually happens right under your nose in your own home!

If you’ve heard people talking about off-gassing (also known as out-gassing) and you’re wondering what the big deal is, we’re here to give you the low-down. Or maybe you already know something about off-gassing and want to reduce it. We’ll help you out there, too.

Here at Newton Baby, we know our stuff when it comes to sleep and mattresses (particularly for the littlest ones in your home!). And since off-gassing is often related to mattresses, it’s important to us.

For this reason, our products undergo strict third-party testing in UL laboratories to receive the highest level of quality certification of Greenguard Gold. This means our products help improve indoor air quality and provide a safe, toxic-free sleeping environment for your little ones.

In this article, we’ll explain what off-gassing is, why it’s dangerous, and what you can do to protect your family.

What Is Off-Gassing?

Woman holding her nose from off-gassing

 

If you’ve ever purchased a new car, moved into a new home, or outfitted your baby’s nursery, you’ve probably smelled that “new” scent.

While we often associate this scent with off-gassing, most off-gassing in products happens with no smell or after the “new smell” wears off, so it’s important to know the difference.

Off-gassing is what happens when manufactured items release chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air. We typically associate the word “organic” with healthy things, but make no mistake — there’s nothing healthy about VOCs!

There are lots of chemicals used in the process of making typical household items. So when you bring fresh-out-of-the-factory things into your house, all sorts of chemicals and VOCs are released into the air in your home.

Which items in your home release chemicals in this way? Probably more than you think! All sorts of common household items you’ve never thought twice about release chemicals into the air that you and your family breathe day-in and day-out.

These items include carpet, couches, wall paint, shower curtains, insulation, nail polish, and, yes, possibly even the mattresses you and your little ones sleep on if they’re not specifically certified otherwise.

Even more concerning is the fact that some of the chemicals used in common items haven’t been tested — such as the testing done through independent laboratories like the UL universe and their Greenguard Gold certification — to see if they’re safe for humans.

As we mentioned earlier, sometimes you can detect a chemical smell or get a whiff of that “new” scent of carpet or a car fresh off the lot when you bring a new item home, but off-gassing can happen even when the smell wears off.

And some chemicals don’t even release an odor when they off-gas. Scary, right?

Parents playing blocks with their kid

 

So, what are the effects of off-gassing and why is it dangerous? Great questions. 

What Are The Effects Of Off-Gassing?

At some point, you’ve probably experienced the effects of off-gassing, like if you’ve ever felt dizzy or had a headache while cleaning the bathroom with standard cleaning products.

Those are two real and tangible results of breathing in chemicals, but there are other effects as well.

The effects of off-gassing on your health depend on your body, the particular VOCs, the concentration of the chemicals, and how often you’re exposed. But to whatever extent, off-gassing can certainly cause irritation, health conditions, and even some serious diseases.

The chemicals released through off-gassing can lead to dizziness, asthma attacks, respiratory difficulties, and organ damage.

Additionally, some chemicals are carcinogenic, which means that they increase the risk of cancer, and others are endocrine-disruptors, which is a fancy way of saying that they mess with your hormones.

While it’s hard to know the exact effects of breathing in these chemicals on a daily basis, the idea of sleeping every night on a mattress that’s releasing chemicals into the air is concerning, to say the least!

It’s especially worrisome when it comes to your baby, who is still developing and usually spends half of the day asleep in their crib.

Baby asleep in crib

 

If you’re asking yourself if there’s any good news in all of this, don’t worry. There is! It’s this: with a little bit of thought and effort, you can combat these pesky chemicals and keep your family safe.

We’ve put together a list of five steps you can take to improve the air quality in your home, decrease the chemicals and VOCs in your home, and reduce off-gassing.

Plus, at Newton Baby, we’re particularly interested in how mattress off-gassing affects your family, so we’ve included tips for how to choose low-emission mattresses. Read on!

5 Steps To Reduce Chemicals, VOCs, And Off-Gassing 

The best way to kick off-gassing to the curb is to only buy products that have low chemical emission levels.

We’ll touch on that as well as give you a few tips to reduce off-gassing when you can’t avoid buying certain products or already have them in your home.

1) Go Natural Where Possible

We know getting rid of the things in your house that release chemicals and VOCs is much easier said than done. In fact, entirely eliminating them might be nearly impossible in this day and age! 

The silver lining in this gray cloud is that there are steps you can take toward a more natural, chemical-free home. We can’t get into all the possible ways to do this (there are many!), so here are a couple to get you started:

  • Consider buying non-toxic, low VOC paint
  • Exchange traditional cleaning products for more natural options, like baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice 
  • Choose mattresses that are free from certain harmful chemicals and considered safe
Dad cleaning bathroom with natural products to avoid off-gassing

Expert tip: if you’re considering an organic crib mattress in an effort to go natural, it’s important to do your research first. “Organic” mattresses don't necessarily equal “best for your baby.” Check out our article here for more information.

2) Check For Greenguard Certification

To rest easy at night knowing you and your little ones are not sleeping on mattresses that are releasing chemicals into the air, look for a Greenguard Certification when buying a mattress.

The Greenguard Certification Program tests the chemical emission of all sorts of products (not just mattresses!). That makes it easier for you as a buyer to know which products have low chemical emission and won’t expose your family to chemicals and VOCs.

If you’re looking for a new mattress to accommodate your growing baby belly, buying a crib mattress for your little one, or just giving your bedroom a facelift, choose mattresses that are Greenguard Certified.

Keep in mind that there are two levels of this helpful certification: the Greenguard Certification and Greenguard Gold Certification.

As you can probably guess, the Gold Certification is the higher standard, requiring lower total VOC emissions. Purchase these products with confidence!

When it comes to approved baby mattresses, look no further than Newton’s Crib Mattress. Our mattress is independently tested and certified for low chemical emissions to Greenguard's Gold Standard.

waterproof mattress pad that does not produce off-gassing

To make matters even better, our mattress, Waterproof Crib Mattress Pad, and Organic Cotton Sheets are all breathable. Babies can breathe straight through, which means better sleep and no more sweaty backs!

3) Buy Used Items

As far as mattresses go, it’s always best to buy new for you and your family. But when it comes to other furniture, if buying a new, Greenguard-certified item isn’t doable, opt for a used alternative.

Why? Used items have already off-gassed some, which reduces the amount of chemicals that you’ll bring into your home. As an added perk, you’ll also save a little bit of money. Sounds like a win-win to us!

We should mention here that, for safety reasons, there are certain baby items you should never buy used!

Some of the things you’ll need to purchase brand-new when you have a baby include the car seat, crib, crib mattress, and breast pump. Ask your pediatrician if you have specific questions about what is OK to borrow or buy used and what’s not.

4) Leave Items Outside Or In Another Room

If you do buy a new item that’s not Greenguard Certified and is bound to let off some chemicals, avoid bringing it straight into your house!

Instead, leave the furniture outside, in the garage, or at least in another room for several days (or as long as you can). This lets the furniture do its thing and go through the first few days of off-gassing in a place where your family won’t be affected by the chemicals. 

5) Open The Windows

Open window to air out the off-gassing chemicals

Getting fresh air is never a bad idea! When the weather is nice, open windows and doors to move air in and out of your home and get rid of some of those yucky airborne chemicals!

Leaving windows open is especially important if you’re painting, cleaning the house, or have just bought new furniture.

Bye-Bye, Mattress Off-Gassing

Baby laying on a Newton Crib Mattress

The effects of off-gassing can be concerning, but with a few intentional steps, you can reduce chemicals and improve the air quality in your home.

And the really good news that we at Newton Baby get excited about? Your little one can sleep soundly on a mattress with the lowest chemical emissions! Safe sleep for them and peace of mind for you.

Furnish your baby’s nursery with a Newton Baby Crib Mattress and follow our five steps to reduce chemicals, VOCs, and off-gassing, and you’ll be well on your way to breathing cleaner, healthier air!

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