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What Is Your Baby Breathing?

Baby sleeping

What do most babies sleep on? Vinyl, plastic, polyurethane, and polyester. Ugh.

That’s what most crib mattresses are made of—synthetic foams and fabrics, and the hazardous chemicals required to manufacture them. And what these materials have in common is off-gassing—the continuous release of chemical vapors (whether or not there’s a detectable “shower curtain smell”).

A sleeping infant breathes in these chemicals, night after night and nap after nap.

What’s in your baby’s bed?

Researchers have identified the volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that most sleeping babies are inhaling. University of Texas environmental engineers tested 20 different crib mattresses from 10 manufacturers, and identified more than 30 off-gassing VOCs. Among them were phenol (corrosive to the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract), neodecanoic acid (a paint drier and cement additive), and lenalool (a synthetic fragrance and insecticide). The most abundant was limonene, a chemical solvent used to strip paint, dissolve grease, and make cleaning products smell “lemony.”

Why is it harmful?

Not only are crib mattresses a significant source of chemical exposure in an infant’s environment, the researchers noted, but babies are much more vulnerable to VOCs, because they breathe in a much greater volume of air per body weight. Babies take in 10 times the chemical exposure that adults do.

Older crib mattresses off-gas less than new ones, but the researchers noted that these present another hazard—chemical flame retardants, which are associated with autism, ADHD, cancer and obesity. Escaping from mattresses and foam-filled furniture, they constantly accumulate in house dust. And because babies and toddlers ingest dust at a rate 5 times higher than adults do—second-hand mattresses, although a frugal choice, may not be the wisest one.

What’s the solution?

Tuck in your baby on a natural crib mattress. The Savvy Baby crib mattress is made with organic materials—not cleaning chemicals. This crib mattress is safe, healthful, and supportive, and well worth handing down.

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