I guess its a term I learned in the fire service - we hear so much about people dying from "smoke inhalation" but the reality (from memory) is not like an out of control camp fire with that nice smell of burning gum leaves, quite different when all manner of modern materials combust. Doesn't have to be a fire either, car on a hot day/etc. Then there's what I'd call off-gassing of new products at 'room temperature' - which does seem worse in products sealed in plastic from the factory - I guess that's not surprising - but to be clear I have no qualifications in this area, just 'experience' for what its worth. Part of that experience is with my kids who to varying degrees were very sensitive to what I'll call 'chemical smells' including 'normal' perfumes and other stuff like glues, solvents, etc. We sought assistance from a specialist in the area in Melbourne and he said there was a good chance they would grow out of it - and for all intents and purposes they have.
Regarding mattresses and bedding in general - there was a fair degree of caution, air new things, wash new things maybe even twice and air them out until good - if no smell was apparent to an adult it was ok - and that seemed to work.
With the Tempur mattress I seem to recall it took a couple of days - maybe three(ish) - and I seem to recall we might have had it standing in the hall with a fan on it, or in the room with the ceiling fan going and windows open. The smell was noticeable, to the point where it seemed to make sense to air it out, but not to the point where it felt like a mistake buying it. It was enough that if it were one of the kids sleeping on it, then another day or two airing might have happened just to be safe.
It would be very interesting to do laboratory tests on products in some kind of controller environment where the gas products leaving a new product could be tested, typed and evaluated. There might still be debate about whether particular ones are actually dangerous, but at least that would be more information for consumers to balance their concerns.Sounds simple if you say it quickly, but I imagine catching the air leaving a container that has a mattress in it for example then analysing it for "anything dangerous" is probably not that easy ... Then there are all sorts of other things, similar but different, like that teething ring and how it reacts to gallons of kinder-saliva, the list is never ending as are the permutations, unlike the budget for testing
Maybe that is the reason Mr Lambert puts a bag over his head every time he hears the word "mattress" - blame Monty Python for that one !!