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Your New Pillow Stinks? – Here’s why……..

I noticed this issue on a memory foam pillow that I recently tried out at a swanky hotel I stayed at while traveling.

Woman with a scowl on her face looking up from under a pillow in bed.

Chemical sensitivities and Indoor Air Quality Illness does not have to be a way of life. 865 385-0170

It seems the hotel was “offering” a new state of the art pillow that I could buy for the low price of  $ 65.00 if I loved it.  I didn’t love it so didn’t buy it.

In fact some time during the night I tossed it on the floor and resorted to sleeping without one.  I noted that the odor gave me a bit of a headache after an hour or two and didn’t like the chemical smell.

Heres an article by Stacey Beyer a chemist that offers a scientific explanation of the possible issue.
“Memory Foam Odor – How Effective is Off-gassing?
A common consumer complaint is that new memory foam beds and/or pillows have an unpleasant odor, sometimes accompanied by negative health effects. Most manufacturers recommend an off-gassing procedure before use. Two different USA-made contour pillows were tested by Prism Analytical to establish a baseline and then tested at 1 through 10 days to evaluate the effectiveness of the recommended off-gas period. Results revealed some interesting findings which may explain an odor contributor.

Baseline Testing: The air inside the original packaging headspace was collected while the room temperature was greater than 70 degrees F. Both pillows showed elevated levels of the compound Triethylenediamine (TEDA). This compound is often used as a catalyst in polyurethane foam production derived from amines and isocyanates. Amine compounds are commonly known to have an unpleasant odor and TEDA is known to be an eye, skin, and respiratory irritant. Interestingly, the pillow with higher foam density showed at least 7 times higher concentration of TEDA and exhibited a substantially stronger odor. These data support the common consumer complaint that higher density foam products have stronger initial odor.

Off-Gas Testing: The lower density pillow was placed in a large home basement room at 70 degrees F and 60% RH for 24 hours. At that time the pillow was placed back inside the original packaging for 30 min before sampling. The data showed a 50% reduction in TEDA, additional testing for up to 10 days showed no additional decrease. Compression of the pillow also showed no change. However, when retested at greater than 70 degrees F the TEDA concentration increased by a factor of 3, 17% of the original concentration! This result is troubling as it indicates that while the manufacturer’s off-gas procedure did reduce the odor, TEDA was not fully removed. Thus, during use as body heat elevates the temperature of the pillow TEDA may be released possibly causing odor and irritation.”

Stacey Beyer
Sr. Analytical Chemist, Prism Analytical Technologies”

I’m interested in know if you’ve had a similar experience.

Please let me know!


Photo of Building Science Expert, Bob Byrne from Knoxville TN

Bob Byrne specializes in Indoor Air Quality and Mold inspections in the Knoxville area.

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