Major Health Hazards Your Pillow Might Be Causing

Major Health Hazards Your Pillow Might Be Causing

When you hear about the word pollution, what comes to your mind?

Our guess is the image of factories releasing smoke into the environment or oceans and rivers filled with debris, sludge, or oil.

No one really thinks about the indoor air quality in reference to pollution neither does anyone associates it with their comfy mattresses, pillows, and bed sheets.

It is high time you realize that your idea of pollution and where exactly it originates from might be incomplete. Sadly speaking, the pillow of yours on which you put your head every night is equally dangerous and hazardous to your health.

You may be wondering how can a pillow possibly damage your health. Keep reading to know how.

Major Dangers of Pillows

Your pillows might be risking you to a number of problems which is why it is better to switch to a more natural option.

Mentioned below are the five major problems that are associated with using pillows.

  1. Flame Retardants

People usually prefer going for a pillow which is filled with foam. Foam is, in fact, one of the commonest synthetic fillings used in pillows today.

The main attraction in these pillows is that they can easily get molded according to different body shapes and requirements.

But the problem with them is that their foam consists of an agent known as polyurethane. Is polyurethane safe for your health or is it toxic?

Polyurethane is actually a flame retardant commonly found in foam used in pillow stuffing. It is also found in certain types of mattresses, couches, carpet padding, upholstered furniture, and electronics.

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As per the Environmental Working Group, the main problem in polyurethane is that it can emit polybrominated-diphenyl-ethers (PBDEs).

The PBDEs are dangerous because they often accumulate in placenta and may even pollute the breast milk of a nursing mother.

  1. Fungi

The possibility of contamination with fungal infections has been known to man since the 1930s. In 2005, the researchers belonging to England indicated that a standard pillow consists of millions of fungal spores.

Different samples taken from the synthetic and feather pillows were investigated by the researchers. Each pillow included in this study had been used for at least 18 months to as long as 20 years.

Major Health Hazards Your Pillows Might Be Causing

The scientists discovered that the pillows were the source of a fungus known as Aspergillus fumigates, which is particularly known for spreading infections in people suffering from leukemia, asthma, and bone marrow transplant.

The fungus is also responsible for worsening the symptoms of allergic sinusitis and asthma. Overall, the scientists found that the feather pillows had a lesser amount of fungal spores as compared to a synthetic one.

Fungi present in pillows and other sites at homes have been making headlines and the people suffering from asthma or a compromised immune system need to be extremely careful.

Drug resistance is also a problem connected with the infections caused by Aspergillus because it can be extremely difficult to eradicate this fungus completely.

Most of the people breathe in the spores of this particular fungus without even realizing it or getting sick. However, those with weakened immune systems or any type of lung diseases are at an increased risk of developing diseases in relation to Aspergillus.

Different types of problems caused by this fungus include lung infections, allergic reactions, and the infections of other organs.

  1. Formaldehyde

You may have heard about formaldehyde present in furniture and other wood items. But did you know that it is also present in pillows?

The presence of formaldehyde in pillows is particularly concerning especially due to its toxicity and volatility.

It is known that this chemical can lead to certain symptoms such as coughing, watery eyes, nausea, wheezing, irritation of the skin, and burning in the eyes, throat, or nose.

Formaldehyde is so damaging that it has even been rendered as a carcinogen for humans.

  1. Perfumes and Deodorizers

Some foam pillows have industrial strength deodorizers and perfumes in their foam in order to mask its chemical odor.

These masking fragrances are usually designed to be fresh and pleasant, however, they consist of dangerous synthetic scents which add more to the toxicity of your pillows.

  1. Volatile Organic Compounds

Another reason why you should be opting for a chemical-free pillow is to avoid the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in them.

If you search on the internet, you will come across a lot of health hazards associated with the foam pillows and mattresses that contain VOCs.

These VOCs get released into the air as the foam undergoes a procedure known as “off-grassing”.

VOCs are unstable compounds and have high volatility, hence the name. They may easily break up and turn into toxic gases.

What are the Alternatives?

Now that you know about the dangers of a foam pillow, what should you use instead? Should you go buy a feather pillow instead?

It is time to look at the healthier pillow options so that you may be able to find a pillow that is perfect for you in every sense.

  1. Organic Wool

As long as you do not have any allergies to wool, a pillow made of this organic fiber is a great option. Organic wool pillows are great since they are breathable and can also regulate the temperature.

The wool in these pillows is naturally resistant to flame and dust mites. You can find these pillows enclosed in an organic cotton case if you do not want it directly touching your face.

  1. Kapok

Kapok pillow is made of kapok, a soft material that resembles cotton and is taken from the seed pods of the kapok tree. It is actually a fluffy fiber that is surrounding the seeds.

Because kapok is light and airy, it is often a part of cushions and stuffed toys.

Kapok is a hypoallergenic, and resistant to mold and water. It has been around for quite some time now and some people even suggest that it was used in pillow making a long time ago.

  1. Millet

Just like kapok, millet is also a hypoallergenic agent which can be used as the perfect pillow filling. Just like buckwheat, millet is free from gluten and putting it inside your pillow can significantly enhance your sleeping experience.

Millet pillows

Millet pillows are a lot fluffier and have low firmness as compared to other pillows.

  1. Natural Latex

If you have an allergy to substances such as features or wool, your best option is to go for a pillow made out of latex. You just have to ensure that the pillow you are buying is made up of 100 percent natural latex.

It may get important to question the manufacturer in order to ensure that what you are getting is true latex. In some cases, the website claims are false and misleading, so this step is essential.


Your personal pillow preference greatly depends upon your personal needs and your most favorite sleeping position. But no matter what position you like to sleep in, you will definitely need to rest your head on a pillow, so be sure that it is chemical-free.

Changing your pillow is an easy way to improve your everyday life and its overall quality. It is a smart investment for the long-term health of you as well as your family.


Nancy holds a Pharmacy degree from University of Michigan and Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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