Toxic chemicals found in baby mattresses

A report released by Clean and Healthy New York found a high number of the baby crib mattresses sold in the U.S. market and which we would believe are very similar to those also in the European market contain "one or more chemicals of concern". The report titled "The Mattress Matters: Protecting Babies While They Sleep", also found that a number of mattress makers have made significant strides in reducing chemicals of concern.

Some of the most most interesting facts found in the report were the following:

  • 52% of mattress models surveyed were made with conventional materials, including toxic chemicals.
  • 20% of mattress models surveyed were made without chemicals of concern, but contained potential allergens.
  • 92% of mattress models surveyed were found to have chemicals of concern or allergens.

As an example, one top-selling crib mattress uses a vinyl cover, coated with proprietary antibacterial STAPH-GARD®. Despite the manufacturer of this particular baby mattress stating on their company website that their product “does not contain any harmful chemicals” and “does not contain toxic fire retardants,” they refused to provide information about how they meet flammability standards or clarify what chemicals make up STAPH-GARD®. The fact is that Vinyl manufacturing requires use of toxic chemicals, and chemicals must be added to vinyl to make it flexible.

The same report found that 20% of mattress models were made with one or more chemicals of concern, while at the same time making misleading environmental or health claims including these two:

  • The addition of soybean or other plant oils to polyurethane foam (which does not decrease use of chemicals of concern) reduces carbon footprint.
  • The use of one or more layers of organic cotton. In one case, the cotton material was then covered with vinyl

The report also revealed that companies have varying degrees of public disclosure about the chemicals used in their mattress. Seventeen of the twenty-eight mattress manufacturers provided full information about materials used in crib mattress models.

Many of the chemicals found in this market survey have been shown to cause harm in peer-reviewed studies. Doctors and scientists have been sounding the alarm for decreasing these exposures.

“There is a strong connection between chemicals in our environment and many of today’s common health problems, including asthma, learning and developmental disabilities, cancer, infertility, and obesity,” said David Carpenter, MD, Director of the Institute for Environment and Health at SUNY Albany School of Public Health. “This report will help parents choose safer mattresses for their babies and illuminates the need for further changes to how mattresses are made.”

“This report makes it clear that there are tremendous opportunities for both business innovation as well as for the market clarity that we would get from Safe Chemicals Act. We encourage all companies to take advantage of this market opening,” said David Levine, Executive Director of the American Sustainable Business Council.

Advocates releasing the report called on all crib mattress makers to use least-toxic materials and be transparent about mattress components. This report indicates a clear problem with federal law charged with managing chemicals in consumer products.

“American consumers are being left in the dark about the products they have in their homes and it shows a clear failure of federal law to protect those that are most vulnerable,” said Andy Igrejas, Director of the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition. “It’s time for Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act, a bill that would put common sense limits on toxic chemicals.”