By Ryan Kath, WBZ-TV I-Team

BOSTON (CBS) – Sleep is essential for good health and a mattress is key to getting that good night’s rest. But the I-Team discovered that some people believe their bed may actually be making them sick.

“What was immediately noticeable was it had an extremely pungent odor,” explained a Metro-West area man who did not want to be identified. He claims that smell came from his newly delivered mattress, a $3,200 Tempur-Pedic memory foam mattress. He claims the mattress made him feel ill, with a significantly elevated pulse rate and respiration. His girlfriend had similar complaints. “I just get heaviness in my lungs,” she said. “It definitely impacts my breathing.”

There are dozens of similar complaints online including one from a woman named Cherrie from Attleboro. “After spending ten minutes in the room, I became extremely nauseous and dizzy,” she posted. Another consumer said, “I had a severe allergic reaction to my new Tempur-Pedic mattress and ended up in the hospital.”

Those are just a sample of the complaints cited in a class action lawsuit filed in California. The suit suggests the company is well aware of the issue. It states: “Tempur-Pedic omits telling its potential and actual customers that numerous past customers have complained about the odor.” The suit also states: “Numerous past customers have reported allergic symptoms.”

The I-Team took hidden cameras inside a number of mattress stores to find out exactly what consumers are told about the issue. In one store we asked if the Tempur-Pedic mattresses were hypo-allergenic. The salesperson didn’t know right away, but left the showroom to ask. When he returned he insisted they were hypo-allergenic. When we asked about the smell the salesperson said, “For the first four or five days you can smell them, but after that, it’s gone.”

That’s exactly what the company told us. In a written statement a spokesperson said, “For those who notice an odor, they usually find that it dissipates in a week or so.” But many customers complain the smell and the health effects last for months.

So what’s in these mattresses that cause that odor? “We don’t know, that’s the problem,” explained Elizabeth Saunders, an environmentalist with Clean Water Action. Manufacturers are not legally required to disclose the chemicals in many products, including mattresses.

But lawyers in the class action suit claim testing of Tempur-Pedic products consistently shows the mattresses contain harmful chemicals, including formaldehyde.

“Formaldehyde is a major concern. It’s a carcinogen,” Saunders said. “It’s also used for preserving specimens, or embalming. It doesn’t sound like anything you want to have in your body.”

After four months of pleading with the manufacturer, our consumer said the company finally agreed to take the mattress back and refund his money.

Tempur-Pedic claims that less than one percent of their customers have complaints about the smell. Now the courts will decide if the company withheld information from consumers.

Ryan Kath can be reached at ryan.kath@cbs.com. You can also follow him on Twitter@ryankath or connect on Facebook.

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