Toxic Chemicals In Crib Mattresses

Is your baby sleeping on a toxic mattress? As parents, we do the best we can to keep our children safe from apparent dangers. The problem is, there are toxic chemicals leaking from products that we are made to believe are safe for children and babies. It is unfortunate but companies do not have to label the chemicals used to make their products. I wanted to share this because I didn’t know this with my first child and made the mistake of buying the cheapest mattress there was at Walmart.


This is the mattress we tossed after three years. It started to shred like this after only a year of use.

Covered in vinyl and full of toxic flame retardants

Mattresses are on the top of the list to creating a safe sleep environment for your baby. A baby spends an average of 16 hours sleeping and much of that will be within inches of their sleep surface…the mattress. What you may not know is mattresses can contain an array of harmful chemicals. These toxic chemicals can increase the risk of SIDS. They will leach right through mattress covers. Among them you will find Flame Retardants. It is required by federal law that a mattress is resistant to fire. Although there are safer alternatives, most mattresses contain cheap, toxic chemical retardants.

These chemicals can cause:
  • Lung and heart problems
  • Skin irritation
  • ADHD
  • SIDS
  • Cancer
Some fire retardants are:
  • Antimony– A highly toxic metal that is applied to the fabric inside a mattress. This is almost always used with halogen flame retardants. You can also find it in vinyl. The manufacturing process is also very toxic. (Can be found in PET plastic bottles!!)
  • Boric Acid– This is also added to interior fabric. Although it is lower in toxicity, it is still bad for the eyes and lungs and can cause irritation.
  • Halogenated Flame RetardantS (HFRS)– Bromine and chlorine. Bromine has replaced what was once used and now banned, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). You may have heard of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). These have been found to be toxic and are slowly being phased out. Products purchased before 2005 may still contain PBDEs.
  • Some SAFE fire retardants are hydrated silica and wool.
You can also find:
  • Vinyl– A plastic used on the outside to make the mattress waterproof. Vinyl contains phthalates and heavy metals, like lead, to make it soft and flexible. It requires toxic chemicals during every step of production.
  • Polyurethane Foam– Another plastic made from petroleum. It is used in the internal structure. It burns easily so it requires fire retardants and in most cases it will contain VOC’s. The VOC’s in polyurethane foam leak into the air and make the indoor air more toxic than outside.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)– can include isocyanates and toluene. They can cause headaches and irritate the eyes, nose and throat. They can also damage the liver, kidney, and central nervous system causing loss of coordination and nausea. Some cause cancer after long term exposure.
  • Antibacterials-example: STAPH-GARD®. These are registered as pesticides with the EPA. The formulations can vary and for the most part unknown because the ingredients are kept secret. The overuse of antibacterials can cause super resistant bacteria.
How to choose a safe mattress for your baby?

You are going to need to expect to pay an average of $200-$400 for a good crib mattress. You will want organic cotton and wool. Contact companies directly and ask lots of questions. Those willing to give you details on the materials used are more likely to be trusted. Don’t buy a mattress just because is says it is organic. It could still be covers with vinyl! Ick!
Please refer to this article for some safe mattress brands, “The Mattress Matters.” Do keep in mind. The mattresses in the article were not tested. The information is based on what the company provided. So, it’s a good start, but it may need some further investigation.

What I recommend:

Home of Wool – My absolute favorite mattresses of all time! Handmade with organic wool and covered in cotton. They contain no flame retardants. (Update April 2016: I bought two twin mattresses from this company and love them!)

Naturepedic – A wonderful line of organic cotton and non-toxic mattresses, both quilted and waterproof available. I have not personally tried one but I’ve heard great things about them.

Lullaby Earth – The most affordable non-toxic waterproof mattresses on the market! They are made of food-grade polyethylene and contain no flame retardants or polyurethane foam. We have used this mattress and it’s great for the price!

The Natural Bed Store – Check out this Organic Cotton Mattress review. (Update April 2016: This is the mattress we used without youngest and plan to use it again with our baby due October 2016.)




About Angela Vullo

I am a mother to three wonderful children. I love to read and write. I created this blog to share my experience and tips on trying to live a green lifestyle.

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