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All You Need To Know About Polyester: Is It Safe Or Toxic? 

Polyester has become one of the most common materials in the world. It’s regularly used for a wide variety of purposes such as clothing, upholstery, carpets, and even fishing nets.

It’s also a very common material for bedding and blankets and you may have several items made from polyester on the beds in your home.

All You Need To Know About Polyester: Is It Safe Or Toxic?

But how much do we really know about polyester? Is it a safe material for you and your family or should it be avoided? Many consumers don’t know the full details of polyester and the effects it can have when used as bedding.

Polyester is a synthetic material and there are several harmful materials that can be found in polyester.

These materials can potentially have poor effects on the body in the long term so it’s important that people are fully aware of how polyester is made, whether it is safe to use as bedding, and whether it should be replaced with alternative materials.

In this article, we take a closer look at polyester and especially at polyester and its uses as bedding. We’ll answer all of your questions about polyester and whether it is safe or toxic.

Let’s get started.

QUICK SUMMARY – It is possible that sleeping on polyester sheets can lead to a harmful build-up of dangerous materials in the human body but the link has yet to be either proven or disproven.

To be completely safe, there are many alternatives to polyester available on the market that don’t have the potential safety issues that polyester does.

What Is Polyester?

Let’s begin by explaining exactly what polyester is.

It’s a synthetic and man-made material that is manufactured from several materials. It’s a type of plastic and one of the core materials used in polyester is derived from petroleum.

There are versions of polyester that don’t use any petroleum-derived materials and these are instead made from materials such as plastic or crops. However, the petroleum-derived polyester is the  most common form.

Polyester is one of the most commonly used and popular fabrics in the world. It’s cheap to make and is remarkably versatile which leads to its popularity.

Although polyester is made from petroleum and other plastic materials, it doesn’t feel like plastic. This is because several other materials are blended into the material.

These are usually natural fibers such as cotton and it is this cotton and polyester blend that is most commonly used in bedding around the world.

Due to the inclusion of petroleum and plastics, the vast majority of polyesters are not biodegradable. It can take several decades, if not several centuries, for the material to fully decompose. 

How Is Polyester Made?

Polyester is generally made from two main materials: purified terephthalic acid (PTS) and monotheluene glycol (MEG.)

It is created from a chemical reaction between these two chemicals that leads to them joining together to make a single molecule that is much larger. It takes a great amount of pressure and heat for this reaction to occur.

In fact, for the chemical reaction to occur correctly, you need to have petroleum, coal, air, and water. The process of making polyester from these materials is known as polymerization.

Heat is a very important part of polymerization as the polymer material created is stretched into long fibers while it is still hot.

By stretching the material, it can become five times longer than it originally was and it also becomes much stronger and tougher when it has cooled and fully formed. Other materials can then be added in to make the polyester softer or more flexible as needed.

Unfortunately, producing polyester and obtaining the heat required to make it is usually not achieved through eco-friendly means.

Usually, non-renewable sources of heat are used and the entire process of making polyester has a very high carbon footprint.

Is Polyester Toxic?

Polyester is a synthetic material so it is manufactured from several different materials in the same manner that other synthetic materials such as acrylic and nylon are.

Unfortunately, some of these materials are not completely safe and can have bad effects which are especially evident if the materials are heated.

One of the most concerning materials used is perfluorochemicals. Known as PFCs, these are commonly used in synthetic materials like polyester and they are known for having potentially dangerous effects over long periods of time.

PFCs don’t break down easily and this can lead to them accumulating over time. Many studies have found buildups of PFCs in animals and water sources.

It is thought that PFCs can also accumulate in the human body and this may lead to serious health problems in the future.

Current research on their effects on humans suggests that PFCs are largely absorbed by humans through food and drink but can also be absorbed through products containing PFCs as well. 

Further studies are being conducted to assess exactly how much of a health risk to humans PFCs might pose. Studies have shown that PFCs may affect the development of laboratory animals.

However, some forms of PFCs such as perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) have already been banned from being manufactured within the United States.

All You Need To Know About Polyester: Is It Safe Or Toxic?

Is It Safe To Sleep On Polyester Bedding?

Now that we’ve heard the potential dangers of polyester, we need to consider what this means for polyester bedding. Polyester is commonly used for mattresses, bed sheets, and pillowcases and it’s highly likely that you’ve slept on polyester bedding in the past. 

We stated earlier that the main cause of PFCs and other harmful chemicals accumulating in the body is through ingestion, but there are thought to be other causes as well.

Many of the harmful materials that are used in polyester do not cope very well with heat and this is where polyester can become an issue with bedding.

During the night our bodies produce heat and this is only made worse by the friction caused when we move around.

This heat can affect the harmful materials in polyester and cause them to be released from the bedsheets into the air. They can then be inhaled or absorbed through the skin and into our bodies.

This means that technically, polyester isn’t safe to sleep on. Many polyester bed sheets are promoted as being safe to use and completely risk-free but without knowing the exact composition of the polyester, this may not be the case. 

Also, studies are still being conducted into exactly how harmful materials such as PFCs can be on the human body. There may be a level of accumulation in the body that is “safe” and won’t cause health issues but this has yet to be confirmed. 

If you want to be completely safe, you can switch from polyester to one of the many alternatives that are available.

Let’s now look at some of the best alternatives for polyester so that you can ensure you are sleeping safely.

What Are The Best Alternatives For Polyester?

If you want to avoid polyester altogether, then there are plenty of options available to you. Many of these are more expensive than polyester and may not last as long, but they are mainly natural materials so you can be more certain that they are safe and eco-friendly.

Many polyester sheets are made from a polyester and cotton mix so you can cut out the polyester and opt for bedding that is 100 percent cotton. If you have the budget for them, silk sheets are another great option and they feel very comfortable and luxurious.

If you want to choose bedding that is as eco-friendly as possible, then there is a wide range of organic bedding and mattress options.

Although these can use the same materials as non-organic bedding, the materials are farmed and gathered in ways that are more sustainable and have a smaller carbon footprint.

You can also be certain that organic bedding does not use any toxic materials at all. 

Overall, we would recommend choosing bedding that is completely organic as this is the safer and more environmentally friendly option.

It’s just as comfortable as any synthetic bedding but you can be certain that it is healthier, costs less to the environment to produce, and will degrade and decompose more easily.

Can People Be Allergic To Polyester?

Yes, they can. Fabric allergies, also known as textile dermatitis, can affect up to 20 percent of the population in various ways. Not everyone that has a fabric allergy will be allergic to polyester but it is one of the main sources of these allergies.

The materials used in polyester can cause irritation to the skin but it is also common for people to be allergic to the chemicals used to process the fabric. This can be the chemicals used to dye polyester, for example.

Polyester can also trap other fibers inside so you may find it makes an allergy to pet hair or laundry detergent worse.

Like many other allergies that occur through contact, you can spot a polyester allergy through changes in the skin.

If you think you may have an allergy to polyester, you should keep an eye out for the following developments:

  • Rashes on patches of skin that came into direct contact with your polyester bedding
  • Tender skin
  • Red marks on your legs
  • Mild to severe itching
  • Heated skin
  • Hives on your upper body
  • Hands turning red

There are a few symptoms that don’t show on the skin as well. These are:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Swelling
  • Tightness in the chest

If you suffer from any of these, you should consult with a doctor for a proper diagnosis. In the short term, remove any polyester from your bed and your wardrobe as soon as possible and switch to other materials.

You will need to check various items of clothing as well as your bedding, carpets, and any toys in the home that have fur or hair. These are also commonly made from polyester and can be easily overlooked.

There are some medications available in most drugstores that can help with allergies such as antihistamines, hydrocortisone cream, and calamine lotion.

A doctor can prescribe more specific and targeted medication and may also give you further instructions on how to manage the allergy.

Final Thoughts

In this article, we took a closer look at polyester and whether it is safe or toxic. We described what polyester is and how it is made, and how the various materials used in its production can possibly lead to health issues in the long term.

It is possible that sleeping on polyester sheets can lead to a harmful build-up of dangerous materials in the human body but the link has yet to be either proven or disproven.

To be completely safe, there are many alternatives to polyester available on the market that don’t have the potential safety issues that polyester does.

Cotton, silk, and various organic materials are safe alternatives to polyester. You should also consider these if you have a polyester allergy.

We hope that this article has answered all of your questions about polyester and polyester bedding. Whatever bedding you choose for you and your family, we hope that it gives you a comfortable and safe night’s sleep!

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