Why is it necessary to find a good mattress for your baby? For one thing, babies spend a lot of time sleeping. And there is evidence that your immune system works hardest at night, so it seems reasonable to make your sleep environment as clean as possible. A study done in 2014 by the University of Texas at Austin found that infants are exposed to high levels of chemical emissions while they sleep. I
But mostly it’s because a common household fungus known as scopularioupsis brevicaulis gets established in the mattress from the baby’s sweating, spitting up, urinating, etc. The fungus feeds on phosphorus (used in the mattress and found in detergents in the baby’s clothing) and arsenic and antimony, both used as preservatives, in polyurethane production and in fire retardants. The result is a production of three nerve gasses: phosphine, arsine and stibine, all of which can be very deadly, especially to infants. Enter SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). A large study in New Zealand has had a 100% success rate in SIDS prevention for the past 20 years. Parents were strongly advised to wrap their mattresses with a specially formulated polyethylene cover. During this time, there was not a single SIDS death among at least 245,000 babies who have slept on mattresses wrapped in low density, food-grade polyethylene plastic. BabeSafe mattress covers were used in the New Zealand campaign, and they sell the food-grade, 5 mil polyethylene covers on their website. ( https://store.babymattresscovers.com/BabeSafe-Products-c23061005 )
Polyurethane foam is a by-product of the same process used to make petroleum from crude oil. It involves two main ingredients: polyols and diisocyanates. A polyol is a substance created through a chemical reaction using methyloxirane(also called propylene oxide). Toluene diisocyanate (TDI) is the most common isocyanate employed in polyurethane manufacturing, and is considered the ‘workhorse’ of flexible foam production.
- Both methyloxirane and TDI have been formally identified as carcinogens by the State of California
- Both are on the List of Toxic Substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
- Propylene oxide and TDI are also among 216 chemicals that have been proven to cause mammary tumors. However, none of these chemicals have ever been regulated for their potential to induce breast cancer.
The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has yet to establish exposure limits on carcinogenicity for polyurethane foam. This does not mean that consumers are not exposed to hazardous air pollutants when using materials that contain polyurethane. Once upon a time, household dust was just a nuisance. Today, however, house dust represents a time capsule of all the chemicals that enter people’s homes. This includes particles created from the break down of polyurethane foam. From sofas and chairs, to shoes and carpet underlay, sources of polyurethane dust are plentiful. Organotin compounds are one of the chemical groups found in household dust that have been linked to polyurethane foam. Highly poisonous, even in small amounts, these compounds can disrupt hormonal and reproductive systems, and are toxic to the immune system. Early life exposure has been shown to disrupt brain development.
From the Sovn blog: “the average queen-sized polyurethane foam mattress loses HALF its weight over ten years of use. Where does the weight go? Polyurethane oxidizes, and it creates “fluff” (dust) which is released into the air and eventually settles in and around your home and yes, you breathe in this dust. Some of the chemicals in use in these types of mattresses include formaldehyde, styrene, toluene di-isocyanate (TDI), antimony…the list goes on and on.”
CertiPUR is made from polyurethane foam. It was conceived by the Polyurethane Foam Association (PFA) whose members are chemical companies and foam fabricators. Much of the funding for CertiPUR is provided by the same chemical companies who want to convince the public that their chemicals are safe enough to be considered healthy. CertiPUR is a registered certification mark of the Alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam (AFPF) (no website); in a promotional piece put out by the Alliance, it says: “the alliance for Flexible Polyurethane Foam is a joint program of AFPF and the Polyurethane Foam Association – so this is not an independent third party certification program, but rather the industry is certifying itself.
The CertiPUR criteria are:
- Made without ozone depleters. The CertiPUR label prohibits the use of any CFCs or other ozone depleters in the foam manufacturing process. US manufacturers do not use CFCs or ozone depleters, so this is a red herring.
- Made without PBDE flame retardants. This has just recently been increased (as of October 25, 2016) to include other flame retardants such as pentaBDE, octaBDE , decaBDE, TRIS, TDCPP and TEPA. But because I was told by a fire marshall that polyurethane is basically “solid accelerant” I would think they would have to have a fire retardant of some kind.
- Made without mercury, lead or other heavy metals. Heavy metals are not commonly used to make polyurethane foam, so another red herring.
- Made without formaldehyde. Like heavy metals, formaldehyde has never been used as a raw material in foam – another red herring.
- Made without phthalates. Of 29 possible phthalates, CertiPUR prohibits seven.
- Low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions for indoor air quality. In this comparison between CertiPUR and GreenGuard Gold, CertiPUR lags way behind: