Fiberglass in Mattresses: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

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There are a lot of different materials that go into a mattress. But beyond ensuring a high level of comfort and support, some materials are used to meet specific standards for flammability. That’s why some mattresses, in addition to materials like certified foams, latex and steel springs, may also include fiberglass. 

We spoke with industry and medical experts to learn more about the role of fiberglass in mattresses, why it may pose health concerns, and what you can do to avoid it.

What is Fiberglass?

According to Paul Longman, a former mattress company executive for several luxury mattress brands, fiberglass is made with plastic resin and glass fibers to create a reinforced plastic with a very high melting point.

That high heat resistance is why fiberglass is often used as a flame retardant. The strong, lightweight material is inexpensive and long-lasting, so it’s also used in goods like windows, boats, water slides, bath tubs, and roofing.

Why Do Many Mattresses Contain Fiberglass?

In the United States, the Consumer Product Safety Commission requires mattress manufacturers to meet specific standards for flammability in their products. Specifically, mattresses must include flame retardants that ensure they can withstand exposure to open flame for a sustained length of time. Natural fire retardants, like wool and cotton, are expensive, and some chemical retardants have been linked to cancer.

But “fiberglass is a highly effective and cost-effective fiber barrier,” Longman explains. Not only is it inexpensive, it can also be used to offset materials in the cover that may have a higher flammability. “Often, mattresses featuring covers with a high level of cooling fibers will use fiberglass to offset this increase in flammability,” Longman says.

Is it Safe to Sleep on a Mattress with Fiberglass?

Assuming that the fiberglass stays completely contained in a mattress, it should be safe. But the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that consumers have reported cases of fiberglass shards leaking from mattress covers. That poses a health risk to the eyes, skin, and lungs. 

“Fiberglass can cause your eyes to become irritated after exposure,” says Longman. “You may have soreness in your nose if you inhale fiberglass fibers, and asthma may be aggravated after exposure to fiberglass.”

If you have a mattress with fiberglass, it’s important that you avoid removing the cover because that can release these particles into the air. You’ll also need to protect the mattress from tears. As any mattress wears down over time, developing rips in the cover can be more likely, so adding a mattress protector could help. 

When Can Fiberglass Be a Health Risk?

If you’re sleeping on a mattress that contains fiberglass, you may be at risk from potential ongoing exposure if the cover rips and the material leaches out. According to a study with the California Department of Public Health, fiberglass particles in a mattress with a torn cover are small enough to be inhaled. They’re also small and light enough to spread far beyond the mattress, including into your clothing and carpet, on nearby furniture, and even into the HVAC system, where it can spread to the rest of your home.

“Research indicates that exposure to fiberglass under safe levels is not permanently harmful because our immune system can break down and eliminate it in about ten days,” Carleara Weiss, PhD, MS, RN, and sleep scientist, says. 

She says our bodies eliminate small particles through sneezing, coughing, and immune responses, but larger particles can irritate the eyes and skin, leading to itching, cuts, and rash. Research shows that short-term exposure to fiberglass is also associated with lung inflammation.

Prolonged exposure, such as what you’d experience if you’re sleeping on a mattress with a torn cover, could increase your health risk. “It can cause or worsen respiratory problems, such as asthma and bronchitis,” says Weiss.

Do All Mattresses Have Fiberglass?

The good news is that many popular mattress brands, including Avocado, Emma, and Saatva, among others, don’t use fiberglass in their products. In fact, Longman says that many mattress brands are increasingly avoiding the use of fiberglass altogether. But because not all mattresses that are made with fiberglass say so explicitly on the label, it’s worth taking a few additional steps to find out. 

Contact the mattress company directly to inquire about the materials used for fireproofing. Remember, natural flame retardants are cotton and wool, so if those aren’t mentioned, it means that something else has been used to meet flammability standards. It’s a good idea to find out exactly what that is.

If you’re interested in finding a fiberglass-free mattress, check out our list of the best mattresses without fiberglass.

Signs that a Mattress Probably Contains Fiberglass

If you’re shopping for a mattress online, check the website description for mattress materials. Longman advises scanning for terms like “glass fibers” and “glass wool,” which indicate the mattress contains fiberglass. “When selecting a cooling mattress, specifically look out for these materials,” Longman adds. “Glass fiber reinforced plastic” is another term for fiberglass.

Lack of transparency is typically another indication that a mattress is made with fiberglass or other potentially toxic materials. If you contact a mattress company and they can’t or won’t tell you about the materials used for fireproofing, consider that elusiveness a sign to shop elsewhere.

Finally, consider the price point. Fiberglass is an inexpensive material and manufacturers selling low-priced mattresses are more likely to include it to keep costs down. Be mindful of low-cost memory foam mattresses in particular. Because memory foam is highly flammable, it’s often paired with a fiberglass cover to meet flammability specifications.

Bottom Line

Many mattress shoppers don’t want the risk that comes with sleeping on a mattress made with fiberglass. However, “a mattress with fiberglass elements shouldn’t be a cause for concern if there are no tears in the cover and the fiberglass is not exposed,” says Longman. Weiss adds that a mattress made with fiberglass is unlikely to cause harm if these fibers stay in the inner layers.

To understand your potential risk, double check the label or contact the company directly to determine whether your mattress is made with fiberglass. If you want to avoid it completely, look for mattresses that are made with natural flame retardants instead.

Jessica Timmons