The Toxic Truth about Baby Mattresses

A smiling baby lying in a soft cot (furniture).

About 3,000 American babies die a year from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. There are many factors that have seemed to increase or decrease the risk of SIDS, but even the experts cannot agree with what actually causes this tragedy. However, there has been studies done in New Zealand that are making it look as if  baby mattresses are making a toxic environment for them to sleep in, and is causing the phenomenon of SIDS.

In 1988, a British chemist named Barry Richardson was working with a company who made awnings and tents, and someone at the company mentioned that they used the same chemicals in their awning as the ones approved for baby mattresses.  These chemicals were phosphorus, used in the mattress cover, and arsenic and antimony, used as fire retardants in the mattresses. Now, these chemicals on their own are bad enough, but for some reason they were creating a toxic gas that could kill someone. What was the culprit? Scopulariopsis  Brevicaulis is a common household fungus, it starts to grow in warm, moist environments. Richardson determined that the fungus, once established in the baby’s mattress that had been spit up on, wet on, and sweat on, was feeding off of the chemicals in the mattress, and releasing a poisonous gas.  Richardson tested over 200 mattresses that SIDS babies had died on, they all contained this fungus. Once he had discovered this, he requested that 10,000 baby mattresses be wrapped in a special material that the gas could not get through. Not a single baby died on these wrapped mattresses.

SIDS has been slowed by the trend of putting babies to sleep on their backs, how does this relate to the toxic gas theory? The gas is very heavy, and when a baby is asleep on the belly, they are right next to where the gas would be on the outside of the mattress, and more likely to inhale a lethal dose. Keeping babies on their backs just gives them that much more space between them and the heavy gas.

Why do babies with fevers or who have just been vaccinated seem to be at a higher risk? Because the moisture from the sweat produced from fever makes the S. brevicauslis fungus grow at a very rapid rate, causing the release of more of the toxic gas. Vaccinated babies tend to get a fever, that is why they seem to be more at risk.

Why do babies between two months and a year old seem to be at the highest risk? It takes a few months for the fungus to establish itself in the mattress and feed off of the chemicals. Babies that are getting to be around a year old move around more, and when they sense a headache, which is being caused by the toxic gas, they would probably sit up, or stand up and start to fuss, getting them away from the fumes.

The best way to protect babies from SIDS is to keep them in a natural, safe environment. Mattresses that do not contain the chemicals phosphorus, arsenic and antimony, and organic cotton bedding are the best choices. Keep babies on their backs, and keep their room well ventilated. If one’s baby sleeps with the parents, make sure the adults’ mattress does not contain these chemicals, and that they are sleeping on organic bedding. Babies’ systems are too new and delicate to have to handle the horrible chemicals that could be exposed to them. Make sure they won’t have to, and keep the babies safe from SIDS.

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