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Mattress News Tempurpedic Sued Over VOCs & Memory Foam Safety

Published on December 12th, 2013 | by Mattress Journal


Tempurpedic Sued Over VOCs & Memory Foam Safety

A class action suit has been filed in California courts alleging that Tempurpedic’s memory foam mattresses contain harmful VOCs. The lead plaintiff in the case, Michael Dodson, claims that Tempurpedic mattresses and pillows release volatile organic compounds which can result in allergic reactions as well as possible long-term complications, and that the company is aware of issues. They believe the company has minimized the problem when advertising their products by stating that the odors will dissipate and that products are VOC-free, when formaldehyde and other odors may continue to be released for months.

Tempurpedic and VOCs

The class lawsuit brought against Tempur-pedic is represented by attorney Allen Stewart of Dallas, Texas, and seeks many forms of recourse including an injunction, constructive trust, and restitution. It claims that Tempurpedic violated business laws within the State of California, where the suit was filed.

One of the primary reasons for the suit states that Tempurpedic not only downplayed VOCs in their memory foam mattresses and pillows but also refers to the fact that they failed to warn customers of a potential link between reactions and allergies with previous customers and their products.

Another key issue brought by the plaintiff is that Tempurpedic and their distributor network informs customers that the odors emitted from their memory foam should only last a few days and is harmless. The class action suit claims that the company has been aware of problems reported by some consumers like allergic reactions attributed to the odors or side effects like headaches since at least 2007, and has failed to notify consumers of these potential problems.

Their other claim is that Tempurpedic’s mattresses emit formaldehyde, a strong VOC and known carcinogen, even though they claim their products are ‘allergen-resistant’ (though this claim likely refers to dust mites rather than chemical sensitivities). The claim on the attorney’s website states that formaldehyde has been identified in laboratory testing of Tempurpedic products.

Tempurpedic’s Reaction

Tempurpedic has not officially released a public response yet, but the lawsuit (or perhaps recent FTC actions) already appears to have had some effect on marketing, as the company’s website removed a page in the last few months which had the claims mentioned in the lawsuit (“free of harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) such as formaldehyde and CFC (chlorofluorocarbon)—harsh chemicals that can trigger allergies and asthma.”), and now makes no official mention of the issue. They had also removed all reviews from their website for several months (since July 2013), though many appear to have been restored in the last few weeks.

What are VOCs?

VOC stands for volatile organic compounds which can be released from products created from unstable organic chemicals or compounds, often referring to petroleum or byproducts thereof, including the polyurethane and adhesives used in traditional memory foam. More than 60 compounds have been identified which can cause allergic reactions and other health concerns, with 18 of those requiring a warning label. Formaldehyde is just one of the well-known VOCs, and its concentration is easier to measure than many of the others.

According to the EPA website, VOCs are commonly found in paint, organic solvents, furniture, foams and degreasing agents among other commonly used products. The concentration is often higher indoors, and can lead to many health effects, including lung irritation, nerve damage, kidney damage, endocrine disruption and several are also considered to be potential carcinogens.

What’s The Deal with VOCs and Mattresses?

Although Tempur-pedic is currently being sued over VOCs, they are not the only company to run afoul of problems related to the release of volatile organic compounds and advertising claims. EcoBaby Organics Inc., Essentia Natural Memory Foam Company Inc., and Relief-Mart Inc. were recently asked by the FTC to stop advertising that their products are VOC-free until proven to be so. Other companies including Target, Wal-Mart and Babies R Us were also sued earlier this year in California due to undisclosed Tris fire retardants in baby mattresses.

As the organic and natural movements continue gaining popularity and awareness, more and more consumers are becoming concerned about toxic or potentially harmful products. VOCs have been a primary target in the U.S. and Europe, since several of them have the potential to interfere with endocrine systems, hormones, and other bodily functions. Furniture items are of particular concern since their outgassing can affect indoor air quality, and since people are in close proximity to their mattresses for several hours each day.

Are Tempurpedic and Other Memory Foam Mattresses Safe?

Memory foam mattresses have taken the bedding industry by storm and continue growing in sales, yet these recent actions have many consumers wondering whether it is safe to go to bed at night. The answer is complex, primarily depending on the type of memory foam mattress you own or choose to buy, as well as your personal sensitivity. Manufacturers are also not required to disclose ingredients at this time, and chemical claims are largely on honor system until challenged.

According to SleepLikeTheDead, a consumer review analysis website, nearly 18% of Tempur-pedic owners have complained of issues with off-gassing and odors. This does represent a higher percentage than memory foam mattresses as a whole, which usually average closer to 15%, and is significantly higher than some other brands of which reviewers may complain of odor in as few as 3-5% of reviews. (For more information, check out Memory Foam Mattress Guide’s helpful comparison article on memory foam and offgassing.)

Here are a few key points to consider if you are concerned about memory foam safety:

  • Traditional memory foam – This is the original petroleum-based memory foam, typically most associated with the release of VOCs. About 15% of owners complain of strong odor.

  • Plant-based memory foam – This type of material replaces a portion of the petroleum-based ingredients with plant-based ingredients, reducing synthetic chemicals and typically resulting in less odorous products. About 3-8% of owners complain of odors.

  • Density – Higher density beds have more polyurethane polymer and thus greater propensity to off-gas than low density foams.

  • Adhesives – Some of the harshest VOCs can be found in the adhesives used to assemble the memory foam beds. Water-based and green options exist, and may help reduce VOC levels in end products.

  • Flame Retardants – Flame retardant chemicals like PBDEs and Tris can outgas and cause reactions or negative side effects. Non-chemical fabric barriers (usually made of silica and other fibers) may be ideal for preserving safety without adding more chemicals.

  • Manufacturing Process – Most foam manufacturers use types of blowing agents to develop foam structures, which can contribute to chemicals in end products and pollution. A small number use vacuum systems (variable pressure foaming) to create their foams which reduce the chemical profiles.

  • According to SleepLikeTheDead, only about 1.5% of memory foam mattress owners experience side effects related to odor that are significant enough to cause them to return their mattress.

Although almost every manufactured product, even spring mattresses, will release a new odor, knowing what the odor actually consists of can be important for peace of mind and health. Thoroughly research products before buying, and check reviews to see if a significant proportion of people mention side effects. Look for recognized industry safety certifications, and ensure that the retailer can answer your questions about foams, fire retardants and adhesives. When you do choose a new mattress, allow it air out in a separate room or garage for a few days if you are sensitive to smells just to be sure, or even consider buying a pillow from the brand first to test your reaction. But, know that only a very small percentage of people will experience significant side effects, while memory foam as whole remains the highest-rated mattress category for overall satisfaction.

While only time will tell how Tempurpedic fairs in their latest lawsuit, the trends toward safer consumer products and greater transparency are clear. Consumers increasingly want to know what is in the products they buy and how it might affect their families and the environment, which is one of the trends we mentioned in our recent article on the Future of the Memory Foam Mattress Industry. However, for major mattress brands like Tempurpedic, Sealy, Simmons and Serta, this represents a significant shift in their business models that may prove difficult as product secrecy, exclusivity and limited consumer information have been the modus operandi for decades.

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32 Responses to Tempurpedic Sued Over VOCs & Memory Foam Safety

  1. redentor m videna says:

    I have some health issues regarding my tempur pedic bed which I bought in Jan 2012. They are offering me a refund less some deductions for use and shipping fee but they want me to waive all my claims in the future against the compamy Should I sign the documents or could I be included in the class action suit.

    • Mattress Journal says:

      We definitely aren’t qualified to give legal advice, however the amount awarded in class action lawsuits is often fairly minimal. You would have to use your judgement to consider which route would offer you the greatest potential benefit and satisfaction and/or consult with legal counsel to see which makes the most sense for your situation. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Terri says:

    I have a temperpedic bed for several years. Do they continually off gas?

    • Mattress Journal says:


      Off-gassing odors are usually most noticeable in the first couple weeks, as the majority of the “volatile” compounds responsible for the odors will have broken down during that time. I don’t think there has been any official studies testing the issue specifically with foams but it is possible that minor amounts of VOCs could continue to off-gas for the life of the product. However, at this time the EPA considers finished polyurethane chemically inert and safe. It will be interesting to see how this is determined if this goes to trial. Thanks for reading!

      • Robert Haverlock says:

        Yes but? This could be a trigger issue. Isocynates can linger for years, foam in building materials have been making people sick, long after installations.

        Manufacturers have to, have to tell the public what important information about the contents of their products and have a responsibility to be accountable for things they make. Share all assumptions, methodology, data and analysis. And we should reward manufacturers who fully disclose contents and processes to allow for meaningful analysis.

  3. Lisandra Martinez says:

    I have been very sick during the past six months with extreme dizziness, headaches and nerve issues. After visiting specialists and not knowing what was causing my problem i happen to stay at a hotel and sleep in a different bed. I then noticed i felt a lot better. Since then, I realized my memory foam pillow must be the problem. After researching I have come across all this info which is new to me. What should my next step be? Should i contact a lawyer? How can i test if the pillow is the problem?

    • Mattress Journal says:

      Hi, thanks for reading! We aren’t qualified to give you legal advice, but many lawyers offer free consultations and would be able to tell you if you have a case. The best way to test if your pillow is contributing to health issues would be to remove it, and use a neutral pillow for a few weeks instead. A hypoallergenic poly/cotton pillow or a natural latex pillow would make a good “control” test since these should not have strong chemical odors. You may also wish to document your experience and any improvements if you plan on pursuing it.

  4. sophie says:


    i am just wondering if this has gone to trial and what the outcome is? we have a tempur mattress so i am quite interested in this as i have never noticed an odour from it at all?

    • Mattress Journal says:

      It doesn’t look like there’s been any major news about this lawsuit yet; there was a motion to dismiss that was denied, but its still proceeding forward. We’ll update this article if there’s a resolution announced. Thanks for reading!

  5. Jakie says:

    I’ve been getting sick for the last two and a half years (about the time I started sleeping on our tempupedic) and couldn’t figure out why. I just had blood work done. My doctor said I had the liver of someone who drinks half a bottle of whiskey every day and I rarely drink. When I do it’s not whiskey, usually a glass of wine, but only about once a month. He asked if I had been around high concentrations of chemicals. I mentioned the tempurpedic, his eyes got wide and told me this could very well be causing my liver issues. It’s really upsetting to know the high priced bed we bought might be causing me serious illness! How does one join this class action lawsuit?

  6. Rhona says:

    I am so angry at all the symptoms I have since I have my foam mattress. I’ve had two kidney infections and have never had any kind of problem like this. One kidney is often throbbing and I have to use a remedy – fortunately I know a natural one.

    My skin is full of pimples mostly on my back, but arms too and neck and face to some degree

    I have a rash on my neck.

    I am a health nut and have done detox and my work is physical fitness and detox.

    When I went away a few months ago all my symptoms cleared up in a few days..

    I paid around 1000. for my mattress

    I will sue.

    I have some other symptoms too like palpitations and dizziness and sometimes waking up with a sore throat

  7. Jim Wyland says:

    Am I able to get a list of materials and/or chemicals used to make the Tempurpedic Cloud Luxe mattress? I would like try and determine, through a local allergist, if I am in fact allergic to any of the materials, chemicals, or gasses/vapors given off by the mattress. I too have been experiencing chronic hive-like symptoms, including burning sensations and itching, etc. over the last 5 months. Thanks in advance for your information.

    Jim Wyland

    • Mattress Journal says:

      Hello Jim,

      The best bet would probably be contacting Tempurpedic directly. However, many manufacturers (especially Tempur) consider the formulas trade secret and do not disclose many details about the ingredients. Ingredients and chemicals can vary significantly in polyurethanes, so it’s hard to say for certain, though you can get a rough idea of components on Wikipedia’s memory foam page.

  8. Lester says:

    My wife and I are going to get a tempur pedic mattress today!! What should we do? I am sensitive to out-gassing (headaches, nausea). Is tempurpedic really that bad or is this the 1.5 percent who have hyper reactions to the outgassing. I have not been able to find any studies regarding the VOC exposure of this product. Anything scientific out there or is this subjective?

    • Organic Girl says:

      Lester, I have been researching the Chemicals that are in the Tempur. Benzene’s and Formaldehydes are used, in several different formulations. I want you to think really hard about what you are deciding to place in a confined space such as your bedroom where you will be spending 1/3 of your life in. Petroleum and other chemicals are the major components in their formulation and then add the FR chemicals- It seems to me that this is just a molitie cocktail for disease, and cancer. * I also want to make it CLEAR to everyone reading this… THE GOVERNMENT does not regulate chemicals UNTIL they are found or PROVEN to be Hazardous. Before the EPA can require companies to test their chemicals, it must prove they pose unreasonable risks and could expose the public in large amounts. The Government Accountability Office calls this the “burden of proof” rule

  9. N.O. says:

    I had no idea how toxic the off gassing of the Tempurpedic was, we have had the bed for 25 days and it still stinks. I now have stomach cramps, headaches, rash, metal taste in my mouth and a very lethargic feeling. Now I am fighting tempurpedic and sit n sleep to return it. A 100% latex mattress seems to be the best option if you want to avoid harmful chemicals. As a cancer survivor I say Shame on Tempurpedic for continuing to sell this cancer causing mattress!!!!!

  10. JT says:

    I read with great interest in your 12-13-13 article. Has the class action lawsuit finally gone to court? If yes was there a decision? I recently purchased a Tempurpedic mattress and I am experiencing breathing and/or lung problems. They go away when I leave my apartment for a few hours. I have tried to air out the mattress by opening the windows most of the day for 5 days(it’s winter here), but the oder/fumes don’t seem to dissipate very much. I wish I would have read these warnings before buying. Now I have to deal with the retailer and probably have to incur the additional cost of an attorney. All of that just for trying to buy a new bed. Caveat emptor!

  11. Tracey Perritt says:

    My husband and I have had a tempurpedic mattress for about 5 years now. He began to have a lot of shoulder pain. He has been receiving shots to relieve the pain in both shoulders. For the past 6 months, I have had extreme shoulder pain, one shoulder is frozen; so I began to sleep on the other shoulder, now I have pain in both. We never had these issues before. I am so upset, that I am seriously thinking about suing the company. Anybody else having these kind of problems with their mattress?

  12. Angela says:

    I have had my Tempurpedic cloud Luxe Breeze for just over 2 months and I haven’t had one decent nights sleep since I got it. I have actually had MORE pain since sleeping on it than I have ever had. I never experienced back pain until sleeping on this bed. Yet when I spoke to the salesman about it, after having it for a month, he said I needed to give it more time to break In. I have also been waking up with headaches very frequently. And I am now having to take medicine for insomnia because I wake up 2 or 3 times each night. I never would have considered that it might be the mattress causing all these issues until I researched reviews on it. I am very disappointed in this because I have heard so many great things about Tempurpedic mattresses. I was expecting to be one of those people that couldn’t wait to go to bed because it was so comfortable. I DREAD going to bed because it’s miserable. Luckily for me my sleep trial hasn’t ended. So I will definitely be returning this mattress for one that won’t ruin my “sleep” life.

  13. Michele says:

    Also wondering if the lawsuit has proceeded and how to get in on it. I purchased a mattress a year and a half ago before I knew any better and we’re still paying it off!

  14. Midge says:

    I’ve had mine for about 2.5 years and went to their website to a question answer page. My first question was asking what they would recommend that might be new for someone with a very bad back and they promptly answered and posted my comment. The second post which was a reply to their comment was regarding the mattress it’s self not holding up and having deep impressions on each side was not published and in an email they said it didn’t meet company guidelines. I call that selective positioning and censorship. Now I’m finding out that the flu symptoms I have way to often could be a result of the materials used in the memory foam. This is unconscionable and the public can’t comment on their site without approval or on their fb page. I am not happy! Suggestions?

  15. Daniel says:

    How can I sign up for the class action suit?

  16. Chuck says:

    We got a Tempurpedic (our second one after 10 years). Haven’t been sick in 3 years. 3 days after sleeping on the new one I got a allergic respiratory reaction followed by some flu like symptoms.

    Its likely going back to the store and if they don’t want to refund we’ll just stop payment on it.

    This article is from 12/2013. Would like to know what happened with the case.

  17. Gr8Dane says:

    If this is as bad as it seems to be, then the lawyers who are leading this charge should open the lawsuit up nationwide – bet there would be a whole slew of tempurpedic owners who would gladly jump on board for failure to disclose key material facts about the safety of their product, and falsely advertising it as safe. As it Consumer fraud!

  18. Randy says:

    We have recently moved and leased a house for a year. This is our second month in the house. The bed in the main bedroom is a tempurpedic. I do not know how old it is. I have not been feeling well since I started sleeping in it. One thing is that I experienced shoulder pain on the left side of my body. Even the left side of my face felt numb. But the bigger thing is that I have had a perpetual cough. I got rid of the duvet, thinking I might have be having an allergic reaction to down. I had that happen once. Then I got rid of the Tempurpedic pillows. I kept sneezing and coughing and developed an ongoing sore throat. When I left the house and slept somewhere else, I noticed I felt better. In the last two to three weeks, the coughing reached a crezendo that resulted in aggravated bronchitis. At 3 am two nights ago I ended up in the emergency room with an unremitting wheezing spongy cough that had become intolerable. I was really sick! My back and muscles and stomach muscles ached from coughing. I was shaking, trembling with every cough. =The ER doctor at first thought I had pneumonia but after viewing my x-ray, he decided it was an aggravated bronchitis. I sat under a mask inhaling an Albuteral mist for an hour. He gave me a Zpack (antibiotic), an Rx cough medicine, a pain killer, and a portable Albuteral mister. I came home without reason… I just recoiled at going back into that room, into that bed. I went to the guest bedroom and took my Tylenol. In two days my coughing abated so much that I did not need any more of the meds I had been given.((I did have to finish the Z pack.) I didn’t know why but I still couldn’t make myself go back to into that bedroom. Then I had the thought. Maybe it could be the bed. I looked up Tempurpedic and allergies and up popped your articles. I know it’s the bed, I know it. I’m in the other room typing this and I am okay. In there I feel the reaction in my nose, throat and then in my lungs, That bed is attacking my lungs! The mattress is so thick and heavy. I could never move it! Does anyone know if there is a zippercase mattress cover that could block these VOC’s?? I am feeling so much better in the guest bedroom!

  19. Connie says:

    We purchased a tempurpedic mattress two years ago & I have been ill ever since. Chronic inflamed irritated throat & nosebleeds. All blood work tests negative & no diagnosis by several physicians. I am convinced it’s the VOCs/formaldehyde in our mattress. Also wondering if it’s safe to keep now that the major off gassing should be complete? Also getting a new mattress of any kind means more initial off gassing so not sure what to do about our mattress situation. How do we proceed with a lawsuit or did anything ever come of the class action suit?

  20. Stephanie Gordon says:

    We bought a Serta iCloud (memory foam) Aura from Sears in January and I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since. While I never smelled any odor, I have been constantly lethargic no matter how many hours I sleep, unable to fall asleep for a long time and difficulty waking up, knee pain and terrible headaches. I was just out of town for a week and NO problems! I know it is the mattress. The store policy is 120 days for return and when I called today they said it has been 121 days and unlikely they will return. Seriously?? I am not a litigious person, but feel like seriously suing…for a full refund and damages. I have been a zombie for four months and was NEVER warned of any potential risk. How can they not warn people that these problems can possible arise?? It’s like warning labels on cigarettes…this industry NEEDS to be accountable for people’s health. What will it take?? It didn’t occur to me that it could be the bed. Had I known of potential side effects, I would have immediately returned it. I will take it as far as i need to to get my money back…and they’re lucky if I don’t take it further than that. Reading all of these comments, I can’t believe how much some people have suffered. Maybe we should all file a suite on this corrupt industry.

  21. Cori W. says:

    I was interested in purchasing a good mattress and enjoying longer rest periods. I purchased a tempur-pedic mattress and the pillows were free in 2011. Immediately, I began experiencing ringing in my ears from the close contact with the pillows, stiffness and weakness in my body, and a feeling of being confined to the bed. I did not know what was happening to me. I was conferencing with my doctor about the new body signs. I never mentioned the new mattress. He did not know what to tell me and we were wondering what was happening to me. I would have never guessed that it was my new $4,000.00 mattress. About three months later, I went out to eat one afternoon and decided to go on line while waiting for lunch. I was still excited about my mattress and wanted to compare it to the cost of others. This is when I discovered the negative comments of others who had purchased the mattress. I felt like my money had been snatched right out of my purse. I read more and more comments and had no desire to eat lunch. I had to make another appointment with my doctor.

    What are your recommendations for me to follow? Are they waiting for someone to die before they take action.

    In my opinion, enough customers have complained.

  22. Jan says:

    We have a mold problem with our mattress. During our Spring Cleaning we removed all the blankets, etc. and in tipping up the mattress we saw body shaped patches of mold. I immediately called Tempur-Pedic and they said mold was not a factory defect, nor a common problem. They were, however, as a one time courtesy, willing to replace my mattress, but I would have to buy their wood mattress foundation and I could never make a future claim against them. Our mattress is on a chest bed with a solid wood top, not slats or box springs. In speaking to customer service I asked what their foundations were made of…wood, covered with polyester. What???!!! They want me to buy a wood foundation to place on my wood mattress pad! Then of course there is the part where they want to record your affirmative to not pursuing any further claims on our 25 year mattress.

    This smacks of unethical business practices! I have Googled mold and Tempur-Pedic and come up with tons of such stories. Further there have been a lot of complaints about the newer mattresses breaking down and valleys developing. My mattress is less than three years old. I don’t want out-gassing and premature breakdown of the bed. I just want a safe bed with a warranty that I can trust.

    Has anyone been able to get a refund or help from them that doesn’t include buying something and voiding out 22 years of our warranty?

    Thank you for you help.

  23. Shara Eller says:

    I bought a Tempurpedic classic 8 years ago.But only have been sleeping on it 5 years. My Husband had Kidney problems 18% working and has passed away from Cancer He slept on it for 5 years.I had extreme dizziness but not any now that I sleep on the couch I don’t know what to do as I paid 2700.00 for it but how can I sell it. thinking what I am thinking

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