Fiberglass has been used in mattresses to limit the potential of a deadly fire, as it was meant as an alternative to chemical flame retardants, which later fell out of favor as their health risks became well-known.
The material was appealing because it was inexpensive and nontoxic, while also providing protection that could save people’s lives during a fire. However, fiberglass has become criticized as a material for not being completely free of harm.
Sleep experts eachnight.com take us through why mattresses have fiberglass, the issues with this and what to look out for. This is all useful information for retailers to use to educate customers, especially considering a recent complaint by a family who claims fiberglass in their mattress has caused health issues.
Is it safe for a mattress to have fiberglass?
This isn’t quite as simple as a yes-or-no question because fiberglass is meant to be a fire safety feature during sleep. Fiberglass inside the mattress reduces the chances of the bed going up in flames if exposed to fire. As long as the fiberglass stays inside the mattress, the bed should be safe enough.
There are no known long-term concerns of fiberglass exposure, but it can lead to coughing, a sore throat, red eyes, stomach issues, itchiness and other symptoms of irritation. Once fiberglass gets free, it’s difficult to remove it all from a living area, finding its way into the crevices of a cluttered bedroom. So those irritation symptoms will persist until your home is clean.
Where is fiberglass inside a mattress located?
Fiberglass is usually found underneath the cover fabric, as a shell wrapped around the foams and springs inside the mattress. The idea of this “inner cover” design is that if the outside of the mattress does catch fire, the fiberglass will quickly melt into a barrier, slowing the spread of the flame and ensuring a sleeper has time to move away.
What should I do if my mattress has fiberglass?
Fiberglass is nontoxic and should not harm you if it remains safely contained, so you can continue to sleep on your mattress as long as you never remove the mattress cover.
If you’re concerned because your mattress contains fiberglass, Eachnight suggests wrapping it in a mattress protector until it’s time to replace the mattress. A mattress protector can help to contain any stray shards should the cover wear out, preventing the fiberglass from spreading and creating a mess that’s extremely difficult to clean up.
Looking for a mattress free of fiberglass?
Transparency is key when it comes to avoiding a fiberglass mattress. Many of the top mattress brands that are fiberglass-free give extensive information on where they source their materials and proudly state their mattresses are made in the U.S.
Mattresses sold and assembled in the U.S. have to comply with strict product safety regulations that mattresses shipped from overseas can sidestep. Some of the more common safety labels and certifications to keep an eye out for include:
- GOLS (Global Organic Latex Standard)
- GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard)
- GREENGUARD Gold Certification
Also, fiberglass isn’t always called fiberglass, and some manufacturers may still use it while calling it a different name. Other names for fiberglass include:
- Glass wool
- Glass fiber
- Glass-reinforced plastic (GRP)
- Glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP)
- Fiberglass-reinforced plastic
How can I tell if my mattress has fiberglass?
Often, mattress manufacturers won’t openly advertise that their mattresses contain fiberglass. Still, an observant shopper can often spot the signs of a mattress with fiberglass. If they don’t refer to it as fiberglass, they may call it “glass wool” or “glass fibers.”
Another warning sign is a manufacturer stressing that mattress owners should not remove the cover. Removing the cover can let fiberglass escape, and this exposure to fiberglass can cause a number of health issues. So even if a mattress brand won’t openly say their mattresses have fiberglass, nonremovable mattress covers should put a shopper’s guard up.
How does fiberglass affect health?
The health consequences of fiberglass exposure can vary depending on fiber size and the kind of exposure. Large fibers have been reported to irritate the eyes, skin and upper-respiratory tract. Other potential health consequences include:
- A rash might develop if the glass fibers become buried in the skin’s outermost layers. Touching fiberglass should have no long-term health consequences.
- After fiberglass exposure, the eyes may get red and inflamed.
- Fibers ingested can cause soreness in the throat and nose. Exposure to fiberglass can worsen bronchitis and asthma.
- If you swallow fibers, you may get an upset stomach temporarily.
- There is little information available on the health impacts of tiny fibers. Smaller fibers can reach the lower section of the lungs, raising the risk of severe health consequences.
People who manage fiberglass projects or have worn-out AC ducting work lined with fiberglass in their houses or workplaces may be exposed to it for an extended period.
“More and more mattress shoppers are becoming aware of the potential risks to fiberglass, with a greater demand for mattresses free of fiberglass,” Eachnight says, “Though it’s nontoxic, fiberglass can cause severe discomfort if it escapes its mattress.
“If you do have a mattress with fiberglass, though, it’s not the end of the world. You can make sure not only to never remove the mattress cover, but even encase it in the additional barrier a mattress protector offers. This can provide some peace of mind until you’re ready to purchase a mattress without fiberglass.
“Getting rid of fiberglass that’s escaped from a mattress is a pain. Still, if you follow the right methods, you can clear the particles out of your home quickly. However, the majority of the options mentioned above are temporary fixes, and you will continue to risk exposure as long as you keep a mattress with fiberglass in your home. If you have the means to purchase a new mattress, do it promptly and dispose and get rid of your old mattress.”