Types of Latex

There are two distinctly different types of latex. Natural and synthetic

There are also two distinctly different manufacturing processes for producing latex foam. One is simple and readily available. TLC's Talalay process is a LOT more complicated ...... To learn more click here.

Natural Latex: One of Mother Nature’s most useful gifts to man, latex milk is harvested from the Hevea Brasiliensis, or rubber tree. These tropical trees photosynthesise profusely and respond to wounding by producing more sap, or latex. 

They grow organically, without the need for fertilzer, pesticides or other artificial chemicals, in many regions of the world but are farmed most prolifically in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Each second day an incision is made into the bark of the tree and the milk coloured latex sap is collected in a cup in a process known as ‘tapping’. This is obviously a labour intensive process and the industry is an important provider of employment in those countries, which account for over 70% of the world’s natural latex production.

An experienced worker can tap a tree every 20 seconds and will tap around 550 trees each morning, then collecting the latex in the afternoon.  It takes the sap collected from 150 of the trees on that day to produce just one pillow. Each rubber tree grows for about 32 years – 7 years of immature phase and about 25 years productive. Plantations are grown on a cyclical basis, making them renewable, sustainable and totally eco-friendly.

Natural latex is hypoallergenic and breathable – ideal for allergy sufferers. It is inherently anti-microbial, dust mite and mildew resistant and it inhibits the growth of bacteria and mould. While natural latex is virtually 100% non-allergenic, rare cases have been reported of people being allergic to latex itself through direct contact with certain natural rubber products such as latex gloves. There are no known cases of allergic reaction to natural latex pillows.

Natural latex is softer than synthetic latex. This means that a lot more TLC is required during the pillow manufacturing process to ensure the latex does not tear. The end result of the extra care is a superior, softer, healthier pillow that is more comfortable to sleep on. It provides gentle support to your head and neck, helping to keep your entire spine in a natural, relaxed alignment.

Synthetic latex: World War 2 was the catalyst that set the Allies earnestly developing synthetic rubber because the Axis powers controlled nearly all the world’s supply of natural rubber. Refinements to the process of creating synthetic rubber have continued ever since as world demand for rubber has surged and the cost of natural latex has risen dramatically. Today around 60% of rubber is synthetic.

Synthetic latex is a chemical combination of styrene and butadiene, known as SBR. Styrene, also known as vinyl benzene is produced in industrial quantities from Ethel benzene. It is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5CH=CH2. On 10 June 2011, the US National Toxicology Program described styrene as ‘reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen’. Butadiene is a derivative from oil produced as a byproduct of the steam cracking petrochemical process used to produce ethylene and other olefins. It is an important industrial chemical (C4H6) used as a monomer in the production of synthetic latex.  Butadiene is listed as a known carcinogen by the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry and the US EPA.

The fusion of these two monomers makes a long lasting, consistent and very strong product – an important quality to latex mattress manufacturers and an easy, but not so healthy option for pillows.

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