Nap Mats and Changing Pads

Why it Matters

Nap time is meant to provide healthy rest for children and a moment of tranquility for parents and childcare providers. However, many foam nap mats and crib mattresses can contain toxic flame retardant chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and obesity. Parents shouldn’t have had to worry that harmful chemicals in nap mats could make their kids sick.

These chemicals escape from the foam into indoor air and dust. Children are particularly vulnerable to these toxic chemicals because their brains and bodies are still developing. Young children, who play on the floor and constantly put their hands in their mouths, have much higher levels of flame retardant chemicals in their blood than their parents.

Flame retardant chemicals are not required for any flammability regulation and have not been shown to provide any added fire safety in these products. That’s why CEH was successful in ending this toxic health threat through public education, market pressure, litigation and policy change.

Flame retardants are not the only chemicals or materials of concern in nap mats. PVC plastic and unnecessary antimicrobial treatments also contribute to the chemical load in nap mats. PVC is widely used as the nap mat cover. PVC often contains harmful additives that escape out of the product and find their way into children’s bodies. Don’t panic, safer alternatives are available. Although antimicrobials might sound like a good thing, there is no evidence that antimicrobials as used in these products reduces the spread of infection and there is growing concern in the medical community that the use of antimicrobials may create “super bugs” that are resistant to treatment.

What we did

In 2011, the state of California listed the flame retardant chlorinated Tris as a chemical known to cause cancer. In response, CEH began testing nap mats and other children’s products for these toxic chemicals in 2012. We found high levels of the cancer-causing flame-retardant in nearly two-dozen commonly sold nap mats.

In December 2012, we took legal action against major national retailers, including Toys R Us, Target and Walmart, eventually forcing them to end their use of chlorinated Tris and/or eliminating all toxic flame-retardants from their products.

In April 2013, we won another victory on behalf of children’s health by reaching a legal agreement with Peerless Plastics, one of the nation’s leading makers of children’s nap mats, to eliminate all flame-retardants from its products. In 2016, CEH tested 12 nap mats for the presence of flame-retardant chemicals. None were found in 10 of the 12 products tested.

And we didn’t stop there — we wanted these chemicals gone from furniture altogether. In 2018, CEH pushed for and won the first statewide ban on flame retardants in furniture and children’s products in California. Given the size of California’s market, this law will push companies to make products safer for the entire nation.

What you can do

Avoid purchasing nap mats made with PVC (vinyl) or that contain antimicrobials. Brands like Community Playthings make nap mats made without PVC or flame retardants.


CEH Press Release: Jerry Brown Signs Historic Toxic Flame Retardant Ban
CEH Fact Sheet: Safer Nap Mats
CEH Report: Naptime Nightmares? Toxic Flame Retardants in Child Care Nap Mats
CEH Legal Victories: CEH Legal Agreements to End the Use of Flame Retardants
CEH Blog: New Study Reveals Toxic Chemicals in Vast Majority of Children’s Car Seats