Currently the most common certification on mattresses is the sage green ring with CertiPUR-US® across the white center. The seal looks impressive, but many consumers wonder, “What is CertiPUR-US?”

The Organization

CertiPUR-US is a organization established to test flexible polyurethane foam (including memory foam), which is used in furniture upholstery, mattresses and pillows. It was established by the Alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam, Inc., a manufacturer’s organization, to ensure that manufacturers of polyurethane foam meet certain standards. This was six years after EUROPUR, a European polyurethane manufacturing group, established CertiPUR.

Criticism

There are several observers and critics who take note of the connection between manufacturers and certification of their products. On the positive side, this is seen as a self-policing to keep the quality of foams high. In this respect, many industries view vigorous self-regulation as a means of avoiding governmental regulation. If the standards to meet are high enough, this would be a good thing.

But on the negative side, some critics see it as self-serving, keeping standards lower than they should be. For example, a blog post on the website of mattress manufacturer Essentia is very critical of CertiPUR-US:

In the end, it’s not good for the chemical companies associated with polyurethane foams. Foam manufacturers are now trying to influence public perception by becoming certified by the CertiPUR-US standard.

Their goal is to convince the public that CertiPUR-US products are healthy.

Let’s take a look at what CertiPUR-US is…

CertiPUR-US was conceived by the Polyurethane Foam Association (PFA) – its members are chemical companies and foam fabricators.

The Alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam (AFPF) is a not-for-profit company responsible for registering and maintaining the activities of CertiPUR-US.

Much of the funding for CertiPUR-US is provided by the very same chemical companies that want to convince the public that their chemicals are safe enough to be considered healthy.

They insert a table comparing CertiPUR-US’s maximum allowable levels for emissions of four chemicals with those of Greenguard Gold, which is the stricter of Greenguard’s two certifications, tailored for the greater sensitivities of infants and children.

Since what is a safe and healthful level of certain ingredients may depend on individual sensitivities, what should be allowed is debatable. But knowing what the standards are for these by a certifying body does give consumers a choice of what degree of exposure they are willing to tolerate. Take note that emissions continue long after they can no longer be smelled.

What CertiPUR-US Certifies

In 2013, Helen Sullivan, the Communications Counsel for CertiPUR-US, said that the organization tests flexible polyurethane foams for content, performance, and indoor emissions. In other words: What chemicals, metals and other substances are in the foam, at what levels, and are they the same as listed? Does the foam have the same density and ILD as claimed? What gasses are emitted, and at what levels?

How CertiPUR-US Certifies Foams

Since the managing body of CertiPUR-US is an association of foam manufacturers, this makes it a second party certification, at least as far as the standards are concerned. But the organization itself does not do the testing. To insure that the testing itself is expert and third party, qualifying testing firms do this in their own laboratories. This means that whether or not we are satisfied with the standards, the foam does meet those standards.

Companies Using the CertiPUR-US Seal

How many mattresses bear the CertiPUR-US seal? Too many to list here. It is safe to say that the majority of mattresses, pillows and upholstered furniture using polyurethane foam and memory foam, including Tempur-Pedic, Selectabed, Tempflow, and Snuggle-Pedic, are certified by CertiPUR-US.

Footnote: What’s in a name?

The first assumption of most of us when we see the name “CertiPUR” is to assume that the “PUR” stands for pure. Actually, it has a double meaning, because it also represents PolyURethane.


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