Sweet Lullaby: Rest Easier with Baby on an Organic Mattress
Apr 13, 2008 11:21AM
It’s comforting to know that the unconscious act of breathing comes instinctively to a newborn, immediately upon drawing its first breath. However, there’s nothing comforting about the fact that babies and toddlers are vulnerable to what they might be ingesting from their room’s furnishings—including toxic gaseous chemicals inhaled from mattresses and bedding.
Parents should note that wise and prudent purchases should exclude the typical crib or children’s mattress. That’s because the surface material used in nearly all baby mattresses is toxic polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The mattress filler of polyurethane foam also contains multiple unwanted chemical additives. All of these harmful substances linger only inches away from a little one’s mouth and nose.
Polyurethane foam, mostly solid petroleum, is highly flammable, prompting manufacturers to try to counteract the hazard by adding an industrial fire retardant. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that the most common of these, pentaBDE, has been associated with hyperactivity and neurobehavioral alterations. This retardant is not bound to the foam, and leaches out into the surrounding air.
PentaBDE recently was banned in Europe and by the State of California. Yet the American government has no plans to recall the millions of affected baby mattresses that are currently in use.
Another chemical family that leaches from the beds of children are phthalates, which have been associated with asthma, reproductive disorders and cancer. According to AndersonLaboratories.com, these toxins still make up 30 percent, by weight, of the PVC surface of baby’s mattress, despite general warnings about phthalates by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Consumer Product Safety Commission.
A research study by Anderson Laboratories found that exposing groups of laboratory mice to the fumes released by several types of mattresses—especially those with vinyl covers and polyurethane foam cores—resulted in irritation of the animals’ eyes, noses and throats, as well as causing breathing problems. Some mice even developed asthma-like conditions.
Anderson Laboratories’ pamphlet, Detoxify Your Nursery, points out that "The price of prevention is nothing compared to the cost of treatment. Removing potentially harmful chemicals from a child’s sleeping environment where he or she spends more than 50 percent of their early life may just be the best preventative approach to a child’s healthy future."