Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2019
22nd February 2019 Is your foam or latex matrasses/pillow killing you? Disturbing news concerning mattresses and pillows made from foam or latex is emerging from Korea. Last week some foam mattresses made by Sealy Korea were found to contain high levels of radon. This follows similar findings in May 2018 with foam mattresses made by a local Korean firm, which lead to a government mandated  recall of nearly 100,000 mattresses (workers collecting the mattresses were required to wear protective gear) and with pillows being sold by Costco in Korea. Some Sealy Korea mattress were found to emit radiation levels that exceeded the official tolerance level of 1 millisievert per year by up to four times and were found to contain the mineral monazite, which emits a colourless, odourless radioactive gas known as radon. The Costco Pillows were found to produce 1,406 becquerels per kilogram of radon, nine times higher than the permissible level. The World Health Organization categorizes radon as a Group 1 carcinogen, because the radioactive material may cause lung cancer. A Korean survey in July 2018 revealed that approximately 80 % of latex products typically purchased during overseas trips, mainly Chinese products in Thailand, were found to emit radon. What is worrying is that this is almost certainly not just a Korean problem as some of the foam/latex came from China and many cheap foam beds in the UK/US are constructed using Chinese foam/latex, indeed it is reported that, “users of this product purchased germanium latex mattresses that were produced and sold in China by domestic small and medium-sized companies. More than 85% of germanium latex mattresses are sold in Europe and Australia and 15% are sold in China and Korea.” here  It is interesting that this Chinese company here  make a specific point that their foam does not contain radioactive or carcinogenic materials also this Greek company here  also seems to acknowledge the problems in the industry.  This scientific paper from 2014 states In foam manufacturing industry, it has been observed that polymer is the major raw material used in the production of foam. Polyurethane is radiated so as to produce a more stronger, lasting and cost reduced mattresses and foam product. It is also known that additives used in the production of foams can as well be a major source of radiation. Addictives such as tin is also used in foam processing industry. Tolylene di-isocyanate (TDI) which is also a material in foam processing industry and is a confirmed carcinogen (Clough, 2001). All these can raise the radiation level in the environment. here  According to Seo, Songwon, et al. "Health effects of exposure to radon: implications of the radon bed mattress incident."Epidemiology and health (2019): e2019004. here  The recent incident of radon and thoron exposure from D’s bed mattresses is definitely an unnecessary accident, considering that the amount of exposure exceeded the dose limit for the general population. Based on the level of radiation exposure reported by the government and results of studies worldwide, it is predicted that there would be no acute effects of radiation exposure among mattress users. However, we cannot definitively conclude that there are no concerns for the long-term risk of lung cancer. I think the news from Korea, which seems to have been ignored by the media in the UK and US, is worrying enough to require the manufacturers and retailers of foam or latex mattresses and pillows to prove that their products are not radioactive and does not produce radon above a safe level. It is not good enough to say our foam is made in the UK/US therefore there is not a problem they need to prove this is not the case. Sources http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/article.aspx?aid=3059449   https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2018/06/251_249417.html   https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/tech/2018/11/694_257996.html   http://koreabizwire.com/radon-detected-in-80-of-latex-products/121374  http://www.nssc.go.kr/nssc/en/c5/sub1.jsp?mode=view&article_no=44395&pager.offset=0&board_no=501  http://www.nssc.go.kr/nssc/en/c5/sub1.jsp?mode=view&article_no=44396&pager.offset=0&board_no=501  http://www.nssc.go.kr/nssc/en/c5/sub1.jsp?mode=view&article_no=44397&pager.offset=0&board_no=501  http://www.nssc.go.kr/nssc/english/release/list.jsp?mode=view&article_no=44971  https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/2147734/household-products-south-korea-under-scrutiny- radioactive  http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2018/06/356_250111.html  https://sofzsleep.net/buying-reasonably-priced-superior-latex-mattress-not-difficult-sounds/  https://vaaju.com/koreaeng/tf%ED%98%84%EC%9E%A5-its-not-the-end-of-the-bed-radiation-detection-of-latex- bed-tourmaline-bed/   https://www.cdc.gov/features/protect-home-radon/index.html  https://www.e-epih.org/journal/view.php?number=1019  https://www.iiste.org/Journals/index.php/MTM/article/viewFile/10510/10709  https://www.orionas.eu/en/24-star-memory.html  http://www.szaidi.com/Product/4685325116.html  Disclosure:- I need to point out that I for the last 15 years I have been a consultant to Vispring beds, which use all-natural ingredients i.e. no foam or latex in their mattresses, however the opinion above is my own, as a scientist and a sleep expert.