Babies spend 50-60% of their day sleeping. We all try our hardest to make sure their sleeping environment is safe. No bumpers, no blankets, no stuffed animals or toys, no pillows. Always place baby on their back. Don’t over dress baby for bed. These are all recommendations we are given. We try to keep dangerous items out of our babies room. But did you know your crib mattress might be the most dangerous item in your baby’s bed?
The University of Texas at Austin recently performed a study on crib mattresses. What did they find? They found that new crib mattresses release about four times as may volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as older crib mattresses. They also discovered body heat increases these emissions, and the chemical emission are the strongest in the sleeping infants immediate breathing zone.
The University of Texas at Austin study analyzed the foam padding in crib mattresses. The researchers analyzed 20 different crib mattresses, both old and new. The researchers found that, on average, new crib mattresses emitted VOCs at a rate of 87.1 micrograms per square meter per hour. Older crib mattresses emitted VOCs at a rate of 22.1 micrograms per square meter per hour. These emissions are comparable to other consumer products and indoor materials like laminate flooring (20 to 35 micrograms per square meter per hour) and wall coverings (51 micrograms per square meter per hour).
The researchers found more than 30 VOCs in crib mattresses. Some of the VOCs include phenol, neodecanoic acid, linalool and limonene. Researchers also found that VOC levels are significantly higher in the infants breathing area when compared to the rest of the air in the room. This exposes infants to about twice the volume of VOC levels as someone standing in the same room. Infants inhale a higher air volume per body weight than adults do. Infants sleeping on a crib mattress experience about ten times as much inhalation exposure than adults when exposed to the same level of VOCs.
In order to limit the exposure of VOCs to infants, the researches suggested extensive airing out of your crib mattress prior to use as well as using an older crib mattress. However, using an older crib mattress is questionable due to the fact that older crib mattresses contain other harmful chemicals such as flame retardants that are now banned in foam mattresses. A better option is to buy organic and natural crib mattresses that do not contain these harmful chemicals.
Most crib mattresses are made of polyurethane foam, which is typically the material in the middle, the filling. Polyurethane foam is made from petroleum and is highly flammable. Because of how it is processed, polyurethane foam can contain various chemical additives, including formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and other toxic chemicals. These chemicals have potential health effects which include cardiac arrhythmias, breathlessness, chest discomfort, irritation of mucous membranes, headache, coughing, asthma-like allergic reaction, dizziness, weakness, fatigue, nausea, blurred vision, and reduced pulmonary function. Another big ingredient in crib mattresses is Vinyl (polyvinyl chloride or PVC). Vinyl is considered to be one of the most toxic and environmentally unfriendly plastics. Vinyl chloride is a combination of petroleum and chlorine which is a known human carcinogen. Mattresses made with these chemicals are highly flammable and burn quickly. To combat this, many companies add more toxic chemicals to make their mattresses flame retardant. The main flame retardant chemical is Polybrominated biphenyl ethers. This chemical breaks down and can leach out into the surrounding air. Baby is then exposed to these harmful toxins when they breath in air while sleeping as well as absorbing the chemicals through their skin.
Barry Richardson, a British expert in materials degradation, and Dr. T. James Sprott, a New Zealand chemist and forensic scientist believe that SIDS is caused by these harmful chemicals in crib mattresses by accidentally poisoning infants with toxic gases that are released from the crib mattresses. To stop this, Dr. Sprott has a few suggestions which include wrapping your mattress with a thick, natural-color (not black) polyethylene sheeting or surgical rubber sheeting. This will keep the toxins from leaching out into your infants environment. An easier solution? Purchase a crib mattress that does not contain any harmful chemicals.