Sleeping with the Enemy: Are There Toxins in your Tot’s Crib?

Crossposted from Making Our Milk Safe (MOMS) blog.

Even though my son is now three years old, I can still recall how nervous I was around his sleep habits when he was a newborn. If he slept longer than the expected 3-4 hours at a stretch, I would hover over his crib, sending him subliminal messages to, “Wake up already!” just so that I knew he was OK. Sometimes those messages weren’t so subliminal: a caress on the cheek, a kiss on the forehead. As a more seasoned parent, I now know the flaw in my logic—one should never wake a sleeping baby!

Thankfully my son is still a sleepyhead.  Not a bad thing to be, as kids do need plenty of rest to grow. Until you factor in “Mattress Matters” the recent study on crib mattresses by coalition partners Clean and Healthy NY, which found that most leading brands of crib mattresses used by kids today contain chemicals linked to allergies, reproductive harm, and even cancer.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this new report is that these chemicals of concern were even found in mattresses marketed as “green” and “eco”.  Only three companies, Vivetique, White Lotus, and Naturepedic focused on making their mattresses without chemicals of concern or allergens. And of those three, only Naturepedic offers the mattress without requiring a doctor’s prescription.

As it turns out, the mattress I bought for my son when he was born was a Naturepedic mattress. Insert huge sigh of relief here. But the only way that happened was because of pure dumb luck. It’s not possible, as regulations stand now, for parents everywhere to have access to mattresses that contain neither toxic chemicals nor allergens for an affordable price. While I’m grateful that some mattress companies are taking the lead in doing the right thing, it’s clear that we cannot SHOP our way out of this problem. For one thing, “eco” brands of mattresses (even those that contain the chemicals of concern addressed in the report) cost sometimes twice or three times as much as a basic vinyl-covered crib mattress. For parents at the lower end of the socio-economic scale, this means an even greater exposure to toxins for their children—a complete injustice given the increased toxic chemical burden already experienced by lower-income communities.

For me, what this report highlights most glaringly is the need for comprehensive chemical policy reform. Regulations that #1, require companies to disclose the chemical contents of their products (only two companies mentioned in the report disclosed all chemicals used without being asked to do so), and #2, ensure that those chemicals do not cause reproductive or developmental harm or are linked to other diseases. It’s the right thing to do. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that companies will take this step on their own. It’s going to take a movement to get them to move in the right direction. And that’s where you come in.

So, rest up (preferably on the non-toxic surface of your choice) —we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. Join us for the next Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families National Stroller Brigade on November 10th to help send Congress a clear message that we want chemical policies that protect our families’ health. Visit the SCHF website to find an event near you and get your stroll on!

Our thanks to Clean and Healthy NY  for the wake-up call.