Mattress Off-Gassing: What It Is and Why It Is Dangerous
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 related to mattresses, it’s important to us.
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?
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. That’s part of off-gassing.
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.
Even more concerning is the fact that some of the chemicals used in common items haven’t been tested to see if they’re safe for humans.
As we mentioned earlier, sometimes you can recognize off-gassing by detecting a chemical smell or getting a whiff of that “new” scent of carpet or a car fresh off the lot.
Unfortunately, off-gassing happens even when the smell wears off. And some chemicals don’t even release an odor when they off-gas. Scary, right?
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: carpet, couches, wall paint, shower curtains, insulation, nail polish, and, yes, the mattresses you and your little ones sleep on.
Other potential sources of off-gassing:
- Electronic devices
- Pure acetone
- Dryer sheets
- Nail polish remover
- Wood burning stoves
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 if you’ve ever felt dizzy or had a headache when 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, skin irritation, 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.
There has also been discussion about whether or not the off-gassing of baby mattresses might contribute to SIDS.
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.
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.
Who Is At Risk?
Any type of off-gassing is harmful to anyone and everyone. Some people are just a little more at risk than others.
We’re talking about babies and school-aged children. Their little bodies are still developing, so exposure to this type of toxin can be especially harmful to them.
In addition, any adult with a weakened immune system, or those with respiratory problems, show stronger side effects from being exposed to off-gassing.
Even your pets are at risk. Think about it — they spend a lot of time on or near the floor, where a lot of off-gassing takes place. And as you’ve discovered, off-gassing is very common with certain types of flooring and carpet.
Because of this, we’ve put together a list of 10 steps you can take to improve the air quality in your home, decrease the chemicals and VOCs, 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!
10 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
Natural Cleaning Products
Think about how many times per week (or even per day!) you grab your favorite cleaner and get to scrubbing. Now think about what’s in your favorite cleaner. If you take a look at the ingredients list, you will probably notice some toxic ingredients.
Great things to look for are non-toxic, biodegradable, phthalate-free, and fragrance-free. Many manufacturers market their products solely based on the fragrance.
We’re not just talking about cleaners, either. Make-up products, colognes and perfumes, air fresheners, and candles are just a few examples of products that are marketed for their smell.
Now, we know you can’t go all natural with a lot of these products mentioned above, but you can find alternative solutions, like making your own household cleaner. Do a little research on how to make your own, or just use what you have around the house.
Natural products like vinegar, baking soda, and lemons can still get the job done!
Buy Non-Toxic, Low VOC Paint
A coat of paint can change an entire room or piece of furniture. Even though it’s aesthetically pleasing and can add value to your home and items, is it the safest route? Well, that depends on what you’re using.
You may have to do a little research to discover a safe paint to use in your home. The good news: Safe paints do exist.
Laws and regulations around VOCs in paint can change frequently. That’s why it’s important to do your research first before you grab that paintbrush!
Look for paint brands that meet zero-VOC emissions standards. This means the paint contains 5g/L or less of VOC. Some brands were even created specifically for those with asthma or allergies.
Also, be sure to properly store your paint cans in a well-ventilated area and always follow the manufacturer and waste disposal instructions.
Tip: Save paint projects for when the weather is warm so you can keep your windows open.
Choose A Safe Mattress
In addition, pay attention to the materials in your mattress and your little one’s mattress. It’s important to avoid those that contain foam and latex. The good news is we have a safe mattress, at least for your little one.
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” doesn’t necessarily equal “best.” 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 emissions 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 products to exceed the most rigorous third-party emissions standards. 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.
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
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!
Think about it: Your stove has an exhaust vent, and your bathroom has an exhaust fan — all for good reason. They keep proper ventilation in these small areas. An easy way to keep good ventilation within your home is to open up the windows for a few hours per day.
Leaving windows open is especially important if you’re painting, cleaning the house, or have just bought new furniture.
6) Consult An HVAC Professional When Remodeling
Are you thinking about remodeling or doing some updates to your home? If so, consult with an HVAC professional to give you tips for proper ventilation within your home while you renovate.
Lots of building materials — like paint, wood boards, flooring, and carpet — contain toxic materials like formaldehyde, benzene, ammonia, and toluene. All of these materials have the potential for off-gassing.
An HVAC professional will give you some tips and tricks on how to properly ventilate, and maybe even give you something tangible to use, like an air purifier, to keep you and your family safe during the remodeling process.
Note: Whether you’re remodeling or not, your home should always have proper ventilation. Have your HVAC technician come out to your house twice per year — once in the spring and once in the fall — to check your air vents and ducts.
7) Check Your Smoke Detectors
Let your nose be your guide. It can smell signs of danger, like smoke and other indoor air quality problems. But it can’t smell everything, like odorless chemicals and gases.
We’re talking about carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, formaldehyde, pesticides, and VOCs. So make sure you have efficient carbon monoxide alarms throughout your home to keep your family safe from odorless gases.
8) Choose Hardwood Floors
If at all possible, get rid of all the carpet in your home and exchange it for hardwood floors. Carpet contains bacteria, and it’s not like you can sweep or mop it away like you can with hardwood floors. Plus, hardwood floors are so much better for the air quality within your home.
And just like paint, certain types of flooring are safer for your family, so just do a little research.
But we know that it’s not always possible to run to the store and purchase flooring to install throughout your home. If this is the case, keep shoes off of your carpet and regularly clean and sanitize it.
9) Use A Dehumidifier
Some chemicals tend to off-gas in high temperatures and humidity. If high humidity doesn’t do wonders for your hair, think about what it’s doing to things you can’t see. For this reason, it’s important to keep humidity levels below 45 percent.
While you can definitely use humidifiers within small rooms of your home, like bedrooms, you can get a dehumidifier that’s great for the entire house! This way, the air quality levels within your home are at an appropriate level, reducing the chances of off-gassing.
10) Ventilate With A Box Fan
Reducing the VOCs within your home can be a little tricky, but it’s possible, as we’re sure you’ve figured out by now. We mentioned using a dehumidifier to keep humidity levels low, but sometimes a dehumidifier isn’t an option for your home at the moment.
A quick, easy way to reduce VOCs is by using box fans. Yep, the good old fans your grandmother used to use (if you’re not using one already!).
To do this, you’re going to need two box fans, ideally in opposite windows of each other. Put one box fan coming in and one going out. This process turns over the air and regulates humidity levels just like a dehumidifier would.
It’s important to note that temperature and humidity levels need to be tolerable for this process to work properly.
Hello, Safe Sleep!
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 no foam, latex, springs, or glue (and, therefore, no toxic chemicals or allergens) — and one that exceeds the most rigorous third-party emissions standards.
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!