Question from M. K.
I am thinking of buying some latex bed pillows but I know some have a mixture of natural and synthetic latex. Since you would be breathing so close to the pillow for 8 hours a day, does synthetic latex outgas?
Home Environmental Consultant and Certified Bau-Biologist Mary Cordaro says “Yes, synthetic latex can outgass. Depending on how much synthetic latex is present, the level of outgassing will vary a great deal. If you’re sleeping directly on a synthetic latex pillow, you may be inhaling chemicals from the synthetic latex, which is not advisable, especially since the proximity of the materials and the exposure time is so lengthy. Synthetic latex is formulated with raw materials from petroleum products, which can be harmful to human health. In the United States, it is legal to claim that latex is natural even if it also contains some synthetic latex, so it’s important that you purchase your pillow from a reputable company.”
I agree with Mary’s evaluation. However, my actual personal experience with the 40% natural/60% synthetic latex strips on the wood slats under my mattress has been that I have noticed no petrochemical odor, nor have I experienced any negative health effects.
Eliana Jantz, Founder of Shepherd’s Dream, where I purchased the strips, responded to your questions with this answer: “I haven’t heard any complaints of outgassing from people who use our 40% natural/60% synthetic latex. And by now we probably have at least a hundred folks out there using it. I sleep on a bed without the latex but the guest bed has latex and I’ve never noticed any latex smell in the room where this bed is.
“We decided to use the blend because the Connecticut manufacturer the only one in United States manufacturing latex offered a 25 year warranty on the blend and only a 5 year warranty on the 100% natural latex. Besides that, there was no detectable difference in smell when we tested both samples side by side. Now, we are offering cotton covers for the latex slats so there doesn’t need to be any direct contact with the latex. The covers slip over each individual slat and makes a very nice finish.”
When I first received the strips, they had a very strong odor of the natural latex itself and no petrochemical smell. The natural odor did diminish over time. It took about six weeks before I could even have the latex in my house. Now it is fine. Occasionally I will notice a slight odor in warm weather. For this reason, I personally wouldn’t have a whole latex mattress or a latex pillow–but that’s just me personally! I see no reason why others shouldn’t use these products if they are OK with the latex.
My recommendation would be to choose natural latex if you want a latex pillow, just to be on the safe side. Or, buy a cotton or wool pillow.