© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2023
Is your foam or latex mattresses/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 latex 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
More than 85% of germanium latex mattresses are sold in Europe and Australia
and 15% are sold in China and Korea.”
It is interesting that this Chinese company
make a specific point that their foam does not contain radioactive or
carcinogenic materials also this Greek company
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. Additives 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.
According to Seo, Songwon, et al. "Health effects of exposure to radon: implications of the radon bed mattress
Epidemiology and health
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.
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 in their mattresses, however the opinion above is my own, as a
scientist and a sleep expert.