My parents loved camping so much; you could say I spent my whole summers doing so while sleeping in a tent or a pop-up camper on an air mattress. When they retired, they ended-up buying a 5th wheel which I am not sure can still classify as camping, since you have access to a bathroom, a shower, a kitchen and you sleep in a bedroom with a real mattress.
My Experience with a Toxic Air Mattress
I can recall one particular summer, when the whole family went on a camping trip. That included my brother and his family, who slept in a tent right by ours and my parents who decided to stay in the luxury of a campsite which was located nearby, inside their 5th wheel. Most would probably not consider that place luxury, but compared to the tent, it definitely can be considered as such.
I was with my husband and we stayed in a tent. I guess you can say I was used to it, but not my husband though. He said that if he was to sleep in a tent, he needed at least an air mattress. As for me, my previous experiences with them kept me away, so I chose to sleep on a lounger that my dad had remade with thick yarn.
I ended up waking up many times throughout the night, afflicted with a major headache. My lips and tongue were tingling, and my heart racing, which are typical MCS symptoms. Maybe I should have mentioned this earlier, so you would understand better: I suffer from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). For me, it is normally easier to sleep in tents than in a hotel room where everything is full of chemical, thanks to the products they use for laundry and cleaning.
To get back to my story, I really wasn’t feeling well and could not understand why, since I was sleeping on the lounger. The air mattress on which my husband was sleeping was the culprit. I did not understand it right away , neither did I complain too much since it can be difficult for me to travel and for others to travel with me, for that very reason. But coming back from breakfast the next morning, in my parents’ 5th wheel, I noticed strong fumes inside the tent, and I recognized them from the previous night. That’s when I realized it had to be the air mattress.
When my husband entered the tent, I asked him if it would be ok to remove the air mattress and for him to sleep on a lounger, like me. My husband is always compliant with me on these things, and he took care of it right away. When I went back inside the tent later that day, all the symptoms I had the previous night did not come back, and so I knew the coming night would be much better. My husband may not have been as comfortable, but at least he wasn’t sleeping on a toxic air mattress!
Are You Sleeping on a Toxic Air Mattress?
A large number of air mattresses are made with PVC vinyl plastic. What people don’t know is that they can give off toxic fumes. It’s the volatile organic compounds from the plastic that releases it. At the beginning the smell can warn you, but after a while it goes away. In the case of the phthalates, there is no alarm bell since they are an odourless and colourless liquid. They are use in air mattress and other plastic objects to make them more flexible. They are also released from the product and absorbed by our bodies where they end up accumulating, potentially disrupting normal hormone function by mimicking oestrogen.
Is There Such a Thing as a Non Toxic Air Mattress?
The short answer is: yes, there are. However the grand majority of them hold toxic chemicals such as PVC, flame retardants and phthalates. What you need to do is to go on the manufacture’s website and find the information on the materials they used. You can also read the notice on the box if you are actually in a store.
As I said, there are a few non-toxic air mattresses. To make it easier for you, I listed them below. You should know that I did not try them, so I cannot give you my personal opinion. What I did though, is look at the manufacturers’ website and even called them, whenever necessary, to ask about the potential toxic elements that could be found in them. They said there weren’t any, so I’m taking their word for it.
However, some of the air mattresses listed below use Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) instead of PVC. Depending on your sensitivities, TPU might not be the solution for you.
Non Toxic Air Mattress
Alps Mountaineering Velocity Air Bedt
Composed of a durable PVC-free 150D TPU Polyester Oxford fabric
KELTY Sleep Eazy Airbed
PVC free, but made from TPU
PVC-free and made of 150D oxford with TPU coating
PVC-free materials such as TPU
Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Trakker
PVC free air mattress without flame retardants and made of polyester and nylon