Some Crib Mattresses Toxic

In a study on six brands of crib-sized waterproof mattress covers conducted by Anderson Laboratories, all were found to emit toxic fumes in various degrees, and some caused acute toxicity to the respiratory tract of male mice.

Five of the mattress covers were made of polyvinyl chloride covered with cotton and/or polyester layers. The remaining cover was made of polyolefin. Chemical emissions included suspected carcinogens. In 66 experiments, 88 mice were exposed to the emissions of one of the six mattress covers, and in all 66 experiments some toxic effects were found in the mice.

Safer Mattresses
Mattressesóboth for cribs and bigger bedsómade of pure, natural materials that will not outgass toxic chemicals, are available from the resources listed below. Natural mattresses can be made of organic wool, organic cotton, and pure latex.

Types of Natural Mattresses

  • Organic wool mattresses. Wool is an excellent choice of mattress because it can absorb and release water; it is naturally fire-dust mite-and mold-resistant; and resilient. Buying an organic wool mattress is important because most sheep are regularly dipped with pesticides to control parasites.

  • Organic cotton mattresses. Organic cotton mattresses are much preferable to nonorganic because of the heavy pesticide use in the cotton industry. By federal law, cotton used in mattresses must be treated with a fire retardant. In most cases this is boric acid, which does not release vapors and is considered nontoxic. Note that organic cotton can have a strong smell that some find distasteful.

  • Pure natural latex mattresses. Natural latex mattresses are a new product in the natural bedding industry. Pure latex bedding is resistant to mold, bacteria and dust mites, and is fire resistant. Make sure that the natural latex mattress is not a blend containing anything but pure latex. Latex allergies are a serious problem for some people.

  • Metal-free mattresses. Some believe that the metal in box springs become magnetized when in the presence of a room’s normal electricity, and radiates its own field that distorts the earth’s natural radiation, making sleep less restful. Some companies now provide mattresses free of metal springs.

Green on a Budget

  • Buying a clean, used mattress that is old enough to have outgassed most of the toxic fumes is a viable option, as long as the mattress has never been fumigated. Look in the want ads for used mattresses, or put an add in yourself. Inspect the mattress carefully before buying it. Avoid commercially sold used mattresses as they have probably been treated with pesticides and disinfectants.
  • You can seal in some of the fumes emitted from mattresses by making a barrier cloth encasement. Barrier cloth is a very tightly woven cotton, and is available from Janices (1-800-Janices; 973-691-2979). Janices will make made-to-order mattress covers.

    Adapted from the "Care2 Ask Annie" newsletter.


Beth Wilkerson
Beth Wilkerson5 years ago

This is heart-wrenching information.

Robert O.
Robert O5 years ago

Thank you Annie.

K s Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Santa C.
Santa C.7 years ago

Frightening article, so a mattress could endanger a child and when you think that we consider our kids to be in safety in their beds... makes you wonder.

Eliza D.
Past Member 8 years ago

I absolutely believe that cheaper crib mattresses contain the kind of chemicals that can lead to the increased risk of SIDS; great articles like these are only further outlining the need for new parents to do research on crib mattresses before going out to buy them. It's always a distressing thought to think that new parents are heading to IKEA to buy their bundle of joy a crib mattress, because you know that those cheap synthetic mattresses will not contribute to a good night's sleep for either the baby or the parents!
buy r4 ds

Rob Aviles
Rob Aviles9 years ago

What is in mattresses.Wealth of info at and must read

loves k.
halyn h9 years ago

i would be very skeptical of any mattress cover that claimed to stop fumes, but wasn't air tight. if it's not air tight, how does it contain fumes?
after literally weeks and thousands of hours stressing over this and not being able to afford $$$ for new mattresses... i got the babesafe mattress cover for the crib and an adult mattress wrap from

Elena N.
Elena N.9 years ago

Honestly... this article about the research done by Anderson Laboratories is heartbreaking on so many levels. I certainly don't want my newborn to be exposed to poisons. However, another issue surfaces here. How can any compassionate person feel good about a study involving so many innocent animals? Do we really need to expose animals to known toxins so that we can be sure that these toxins are hurtful to life? What toxin is not hurtful? What about the age of technlogy when it comes to studies like these? I plan on teaching my kid to respect all life. I am not so convinced that Anderson Laboratories is serving the world all that much!

loves k.
halyn h9 years ago

very long article. worth your time to consider.

Victory Over SIDS
Lendon H. Smith, MD, with Joseph G. Hattersley, MA
Originally published in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients Aug/Sept, 2000

(EXCERPT) The mechanism of death ... Common, ordinarily harmless household fungi such as Scopulariopsis brevicaulis and certain microorganisms consume the phosphorus, arsenic, antimony, added as fire retardants and plastic softeners.

In consuming the chemicals, the fungi emit the heavier-than-air neurotoxic gases based on phosphine (PH3), arsine (AsH3)[4] and stibine (SbH3). These gases are about one thousand times more poisonous than carbon monoxide, which can kill a person in a closed garage with a running engine. They are about as toxic as Sarin, used in the 1980s Iran-Iraq war and in a Tokyo terrorist subway poisoning in 1995.

In probably the worst environmental disaster of the 20th century, these toxic gases have killed about one million victims of SIDS worldwide. Gas generation starts when a mattress, containing both the chemicals and the fungi, is warmed to body temperature in contact with the baby. Perspiration, dribble, urine, vomit, body heat and -- as we shall see, critically important -- high (alkaline) pH enable the fungi to grow and generate gas rapidly.

If a mattress contains any antimony, for example, there is invariably more than enough, when converted to st

Rebecca Young
Rebecca Young9 years ago

I would *strongly* recommend that people NOT buy used crib mattresses, since there is evidence suggesting a link between used mattresses and SIDS:

I did a lot of reading on this when pregnant with my twins - I don't have everything I read bookmarked anymore, but there's enough evidence that even mainstream books like Baby Bargains now advocate against used mattresses. It's too bad since I'm usually a huge advocate of reusing, but in this case it is just not worth the risk to your baby. The rest of these suggestions are great, there are a lot of good eco-organic crib mattresses out there now.