Why should you care what makes up your baby’s mattress? This was not a question I asked myself when we prepared the nursery for our first child. I assumed that products sold on the market were safe. In researching what mattress lines to carry at our boutique, I was blown away with what I learned.
Where We Spend Most Of Our Time Should Be The Healthiest Place
Most standard mattresses are made from a petroleum-based product. Yes, as in the same family as gasoline. This makes them highly flammable; therefore, the CPSC (Consumer Products Safety Commission) passed a law (FR1633) requiring mattresses to pass a flame test. This same law does not require mattress manufacturers to label the exact fire retardants included in the mattress. Most manufacturers of mattresses use chemical fire retardants at concentrations higher than recommended by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) but say since the outer layer may not contain high concentrations of the chemicals, its alright. In my opinion, there are NO acceptable levels of harmful chemicals I would put my children in contact with, especially when other options exist.
Research published in 1989 by Dr B.A. Richardson, consulting scientist of Winchester, Britain, found one of the most common fire retardants to be a chemical called antimony from the arsenic family of nerve gases. Richardson discovered that toxic gases were given off from the mattresses of children who had died from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) – specifically, the hydrogen compounds of phosphorus, antimony and arsenic, phosphine (PH3), stibine (SbH3) and arsine (AsH3). When liquids such as spit up, urine and even sweat penetrate a mattress, mold forms. These spores, grown in chemicals such as antimony give off toxic gasses and pose a great threat to your newborn. Dr. Richardson linked a possible cause of SIDS to these chemicals, which can slow the brain’s synapses causing respiration to slow and even stop. Because of this research, crib mattresses are now wrapped in waterproof material in Britain.
The most common waterproofing material in America is vinyl, which is not only toxic by itself, it slowly off-gasses phthalates and eventually can crack allowing the chemicals within to be exposed. Vinyl is PVC plastic (very toxic) made soft and malleable by chemical plasticizers called phthalates. As the phthalates off-gas and leave the vinyl, it begins to harden and crack.
As of February 10, 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) banned three varieties of phthalates (DEHP,DBP, and BBP) for use in baby and children’s mattresses and other children’s products. Three other phthalates in the CPSC ban (DINP, DIDP, and DnOP) are only illegal for teethers and other objects expected to be placed into a child’s mouth, so they still may be present in vinyl-covered mattresses. Let’s be clear about this, the CPSIA banned the manufacture of these items as of February 10, 2009 so they can legally be made up until that date. It is still legal for retailers to sell these products for years to come unless you are in California. California is the only state to mandate the end of manufacturing and selling of these toxic products. Therefore you could be legally buying a mattress for your child that is not allowed to be manufactured anymore because of its toxicity. Could this be possible? Unfortunately, yes.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also reported about unsafe exposure to phthalates. In a study, the AAP noted that phthalate chemicals were animal carcinogens known to cause fetal death, malformations and problems with the endocrine system. The AAP went on to say that the adverse risk to children was greater due to the fact that their bodies and organ systems were still developing. Here is a link to a recent article from the NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) that I found informative:
click here to view article
As concerned parents we need to ask the right questions and purchase products that are safe. We cannot assume that people we buy from care about our health. The only way to change a consumer culture is through the educated use of the mighty dollar. As a retailer I have begun to understand why these products are sold in our open-market economy. A company trying to make money will use the cheapest materials available as long as people are buying. Unfortunately the cheapest way to make “comfortable” mattresses is with material that is highly flammable. You can achieve the same comfort or better substituting materials that are naturally fire repellant and eliminate the need to add harmful chemicals to the place you and your children spend so much time. I could purchase cheaper mattresses to sell at my boutique made out of questionable materials and sell many more of them because of their reduced cost. I understand what it is like to live on the strict budget required of most new families. I know my husband and I never thought what we were sleeping on could possibly be harming us or our children. There are several types of “healthy mattresses” we offer at You Are My Sunshine and none of them have harmful fire retardant chemicals or vinyl/phthalate waterproofing. There are healthy mattresses that pass FR1633 and there are non-toxic waterproof materials available that pass GreenGuard emmissions tests..
The only way to get these chemicals out of your child’s environment is to purchase a chemical-free mattress or at very least a waterproof, chemical-free mattress cover that blocks direct contact between your child and the chemicals beneath. We are now offering these choices at You Are My Sunshine. It is true that these chemical-free choices, just like organic foods, are slightly more expensive. The exact reason manufacturers are not commonly using them? Well, they may just be in it for the profit, not the health of your family. In future newsletters, I will address further the issue of going chemical-free on a budget. My belief as a mother and childbirth educator is that because your child will spend 10-14 hours a day sleeping or napping on a mattress, the best place to begin creating a chemical-free environment for them is where they sleep. This carries over to where you sleep as well.
Please do the research on these topics. Go and find out everything you can about what your family may be exposed to and what choices you can make to change it. You will be surprised. Feel free to comment and give us your opinion! Thanks for listening.