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Toxic Chemicals Found in Crib Mattresses

Washington, D.C. – A new report just released  by Clean and Healthy New York finds a significant portion of the crib mattresses in the U.S. market contain one or more chemicals of concern. The report titled The Mattress Matters: Protecting Babies While They Sleep, also finds that a number of mattress makers have made significant strides in reducing chemicals of concern.

Specifically, the report found:

  • 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.
  • 8% of mattress models surveyed were made without chemicals of concern or allergens.

As an example, top-selling Sealy Baby Firm Crib Mattress uses a vinyl cover, coated with proprietary antibacterial STAPH-GARD®.  Despite stating on their 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®.  Vinyl manufacturing requires use of toxic chemicals, and chemicals must be added to vinyl to make it flexible.

The encouraging news for American families is there are some safer crib mattresses currently on the market. However, the remaining 20% of mattress models were made with one or more chemicals of concern, while simultaneously making a misleading environmental or health claim, including:

  • The addition of soybean or other plant oils to polyurethane foam (which does not decrease use of chemicals of concern) to reduce “carbon footprint” or
  • 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.

“The report title says it all: the mattress does matter.  We call on manufacturers to eliminate toxic chemicals and fully disclose what materials they are using. Parents deserve to protect their babies while they sleep,” said Bobbi Chase Wilding, Deputy Director of Clean and Healthy New York, which authored the report.

Many of the chemicals found in this market survey have 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.”

Clean and Healthy New York advances broad policy and market changes to promote safer chemicals, a sustainable economy, and a healthier world.   (www.cleanhealthyny.org)

Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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