If you were sleeping on glass, you would expect to know, but the truth is, many people are, and they don’t even realize it! I’m not talking about shards of broken glass but fiberglass. This material, which is more commonly used for roofing or between walls, may be in your bedding and is not suitable for your health or sleep.
Fiberglass uses glass fibers to make reinforced plastic, often arranged into sheets or cloth. It is more recognized as bright pink fluff that is used in the construction of buildings. Fiberglass is extremely strong, durable, and flexible, making it a popular building material. There is plenty of uses for the material, and it is also found in swimming pools, boats, hot tubs, surfboards, roofing, water tanks, aircraft, and septic tanks.
When used in the home as a building material, fiberglass is considered safe. That said, the dust from the fibrous glass is regarded as a human carcinogen, according to the US National Toxicology Program (NTP).
Unknowingly to many consumers, fiberglass is inside many mattresses. The material is added to provide a fire-resistant barrier, which makes them safer if there is ever a fire. It is also chosen because it is cheaper than using other, natural flame-retardant materials.
Mattresses can be highly flammable. Materials like memory foam can quickly go up in flames if they were to catch fire, but when there is a flame retardant material present, it will cause the mattress to melt instead of creating large flames. This will slow the spread of the fire and reduce damage. Before mattress flammability standards, a high number of house fires would start in the bedroom because of the high flammability of mattresses and pillows.
Today, mattresses must meet specific standards when it comes to fire resistance. This means that all mattresses in the United States must complete pass/fail criteria by resisting an ignition source.The Consumer Product Safety Commission states that all mattresses must meet a federal safety standard for open-flame resistance, and the cheapest way for many companies to meet the standard is to add fiberglass to the filling.
If your mattress is in excellent condition, you shouldn’t have any issues, but if your mattress becomes damaged, there are some health risks. Generally, fiberglass is safe; however, if the fiberglass becomes loose, it can cause issues like skin infection, breathing problems, or temporary skin irritation. In addition, when fiberglass is out of the mattress it creates an enormous mess that will require the help of a professional to remove it.
Mattresses can become damaged, and fiberglass can become loose if the mattress is old, is ripped during a move, or if you have pets that could scratch at it. If you do see pink fiberglass coming from your mattress, don’t touch it. Because it is made from tiny glass fibers, it can give you small cuts that can cause blisters and rashes. Also, if it becomes airborne or finds its way into your HVAC system, it could irritate your lungs and eyes.
If you aren’t sure if your mattress has fiberglass, just check the tag. This long, important tag tells you all the essential information about your mattress and is why you are advised never to remove it. Unfortunately, in some cases, it may not say “fiberglass” but instead have “glass wool” or “glass fibers” listed. This is a form of greenwashing when a company uses deceiving jargon to mislead customers.
Although you could replace your mattress entirely if it has fiberglass, you don’t need to if it is still in good condition. Instead, help protect your mattress and reduce the risk of fiberglass exposure by putting the mattress in a sealed mattress protector. Alternatively, if you are in the process of buying a new mattress, you may want to avoid one that contains fiberglass. According to Stephen Light, Nolah Mattress CEO, fiberglass “isn’t worth it over the health risk it poses.”
What Mattresses Don’t Contain Fiberglass?
If you are looking for a mattress without fiberglass, there are a few things you need to look for. In addition to checking the label, you must be wary of a cheaply priced mattress. Often when it comes to bedding, mattresses, and pillows, an ultra-low price is too good to be true. For example, fiberglass is an exceptionally cheap material, and these mattresses are priced much lower. Further, these inexpensive mattresses are more likely to contain other cheap, toxic materials you don’t want to sleep on night after night.
Next, look at the origin of the mattress and where it was manufactured. Just like with a buckwheat pillow, you want to buy a mattress made in the USA and avoid mattresses made in China. Other countries have different manufacturing standards and are more likely to contain fiberglass. Even if you think the company is based in the USA, it doesn’t mean the mattresses will be made there. You need to do your research about the company. You can find information about the fire retardant materials they use by calling the company and asking questions – if they can’t answer or aren’t sure what materials they use, consider it a red flag.
For peace of mind, you can also look for organic materials. For example, organic mattresses will contain more natural fabrics like cotton and wool instead of fiberglass. For example, our meditation pillows are filled with US-grown, 100% organic buckwheat hulls and a cotton cover. No matter your mattress type preference, a fiberglass-free version is available. Here are a few great examples of great mattresses that don’t contain fiberglass:
Coil/ Innerspring Mattress
Coil and innerspring mattresses are the most common type of mattresses to contain fiberglass. Often these mattresses will have fiberglass surrounding the coils or be between two layers of materials, so it isn’t easily visible. If this is your preferred type of mattress, there is good news as many companies are moving away from the material and creating fiberglass-free alternatives. These mattresses will use silica, wool, or other plant fibers as flame barriers, and although they may cost a little more, you can sleep easy knowing there is no glass in your mattress!
Memory Foam Mattress
There is a common misconception that all memory foam mattresses contain fiberglass. Although many do, this isn’t true for all of them, and you can find high-quality memory foam mattresses without the material. Memory foam mattresses must still meet fire resistance standards, so those that don’t contain fiberglass often use a silica and wool mixture to create that fire barrier. These are relatively easy to find, and many big brands carry fiberglass-free memory foam mattresses.
Latex is an excellent option if you want a more natural mattress to go along with your natural buckwheat pillow. Latex is a natural material that comes from rubber tree sap. These mattresses can be certified organic when in an organic cotton cover. An organic latex foam mattress often uses wool as a layer of fire protection instead of fiberglass. Not only does this reduce health risks, but wool naturally wicks away moisture and heat, giving you a comfortable, cool sleep. This type of material is one of the most eco-friendly mattresses available, and although it isn’t cheap, it will last! Latex foam mattresses are one of the most durable and longest-lasting mattresses available.
Hybrid mattresses have 2 to 3 inches of memory foam on top of innerspring/coil support. These mattresses can be the most challenging to determine the materials. Because you are looking at different materials and multiple layers, the tag can contain a long list of materials! Typically, you want to focus on the comfort layer with a hybrid mattress. This is the layer of memory foam that often contains fiberglass. Remember to consider any greenwashing terms when looking at the tag and avoid anything with “glass.” Instead, look for safer alternatives like wool or silica.
Fiberglass doesn’t change your mattress's firmness, support, or comfort level. So, it doesn’t matter if you are a side-sleeper, stomach sleeper, or prefer to sleep on your back – the flame barrier of your mattress won’t affect how comfortable it is. The difference is made with your peace of mind and health. In addition to fiberglass, a cheap mattress can contain other potentially toxic materials and VOCs. To make shopping easier, some mattresses have certifications that ensure they don’t include these materials. For example, CertiPUR-US is an agency that certifies memory foam mattresses don’t contain formaldehyde, ozone depleters, mercury, lead, or other heavy metals. That said, you can’t take the certification at face value and will have to do your research before putting any trust in it.
Although sleeping on glass sounds painful, these mattresses are deceiving. They are just as comfortable as any other mattress, and if you didn’t look at the materials, you wouldn’t know! Although many carefully examine the ingredients in their food, too few look at the materials in their bedding. You spend 8 hours a night breathing in these materials, so you want to ensure they are safe and have no adverse health effects! A mattress is a significant investment so do it right the first time. A high-quality, organic, or fiberglass-free mattress is perfectly paired with your buckwheat pillow for a safe, cool and comfortable night’s rest.