Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mattress Off-gassing Confusion on the Net

About once every 6 months, I surf the internet to see what's happening out there and what people are saying about SIDS and mattress wrapping. The past couple of days I have read numerous comments and misconceptions, largely due to skeptics who want to rely on medical doctors or organizations who, oddly enough, get their information from other medical doctors or organizations. So I'd like to address some of the things I have read.

One discussion I came across was about the chemicals that off-gas from mattresses. The assumption in regards to SIDS, is that newer mattresses are more dangerous, because they will obviously have more chemicals off-gassing. People have heard something about gases coming from mattresses, and incorrectly tie it to the new mattress off-gassing, and incorrectly tie that to the toxic gas theory for crib death. The truth is that mattresses are made with chemicals that are not healthy. The truth is that these chemicals off-gas during the life of the mattress. In regards to SIDS, the toxic nerve gases responsible for crib death are different from the chemicals that off-gas. These toxic gases are formed when a fungus, which grows in used mattresses, consumes the chemicals in the mattresses. So even when your mattress no longer has that "new mattress smell," the danger is still there for your baby.

It is important to note that ALL conventional mattresses, from crib to adult sizes, have these same chemicals, most notably fire retardants. So in regards to SIDS, a baby is not safer in an adult bed. As a matter of fact, in addition to the toxic gases that are surely coming from the adult bed (as it is even more used than most crib mattresses) there are additional hazards from poly-filled comforters, pillows, and other bedding in an adult bed. Contrary to popular belief, this is not only because they are suffocation hazards, but because these bedding items also contain the same dangerous chemicals that can produce toxic gases when they are not laundered frequently (because the fungus is allowed to grow).

It is also important to note that just because you can no longer smell your mattress, it does not mean it is finished off-gassing. When our Tempur-pedic mattress was about two years old, the smell was no longer detectable. We wrapped it with a polyethylene sheeting to test out the sheeting. A few months down the road, I accidentally ripped a small cut in the sheeting. The smell coming from the cut was the "new mattress" smell all over again. Nobody really knows how long it takes for something to completely off-gas, but the truth of the matter is, by the time it is almost done off-gassing, you will probably have already replaced it.

Another discussion I came across on the internet was about Dr. Sprott, the supplier of BabeSafe products. Here is a blog entry in particular that is quite alarming: http://www.ap-baby.com/2006/10/sids_and_mattresswrapping.html
Since there is no way to comment on this blog, I will comment here. Since this is a long blog post, I will pick out the comments that are most troublesome:

"Unfortunately the only sources I can find which cite mattress wrapping as a factor in reducing SIDS deaths are secondhand." I'm not sure what this means. How can the sources be secondhand, when they are being reported by the same person who is doing the research?

"But I went to the New Zealand Ministry of Health website (http://www.moh.govt.nz) and looked up SIDS and cot death, and was unable to find even a single mention there of mattress-wrapping." Don't you think it strange that instead of mentioning it and disclaiming it, they are totally ignoring mattress-wrapping all together? Are you under the assumption that because they don't mention it, it invalidates mattress-wrapping? I'm not sure why one would draw this conclusion, unless she is under the impression that government entities exist in order to protect citizens. I may have believed that in high school, but I have seen too much and realize the politics involved in EVERYTHING. Let's take a break from the SIDS discussion for a moment so that I can make a point. Do you know what causes AIDS? I was taught in high school, and still see in the media, that HIV causes AIDS. Are you sure? Read this:
Now what would you say about HIV and AIDS? The problem is that we are giving credence to organizations who have not earned it and don't deserve it. Organizations must also do research, and ignoring someone else's does not give them the right to be heard over those who have done the work.

"(1)Ok, someone please tell me why a SIDS organization would pooh pooh a possible cause for SIDS??? What would the motivation be? I don't understand that. (2)Secondly, this is flawed logic. Disproved??? How would you "disprove" this??? (3) So they say 800 people used mattress wrapping and not one had a case of SIDS. Who says there would've been a case of SIDS there ANYways????" There is a lot in this statement, so I will take it one step at a time. (1) A SIDS organization would ignore a possible cause of SIDS because accepting it would put them out of a job. Bill Gates donated $11 million to a SIDS organization. (And we pay millions of dollars in tax money to find the "cure" for SIDS). It's the same reason that the cancer organizations hide what they already know about cures and prevention strategies! They don't do the work to disprove cancer prevention strategies or alternative therapies, they just ignore that they exist! (2) You would disprove mattress wrapping by babies having died on wrapped mattresses. But that hasn't happened. Do you really think THAT would be kept off the evening news? Where are the lawsuits? Where are the grieving parents who trusted Dr. Sprott yet lost their babies? They don't exist. (3) Nobody said "800 people used mattress wrapping." I'm not sure where this figure came from. Check out these correct mattress wrapping statistics. MANY more than 800 people have used mattress wrapping.

"Honestly, this seems like a pretty easy thing to track if ANY SIDS organization wanted to. I can't imagine that if the evidence were really so compelling, that Canada and the US government wouldn't have gotten on the bandwagon to see what effect it has." **IF** they wanted to. Exactly my point. If you really did the research, you would know that government regulations are what required the flame retardants in the mattresses in the first place. In what country do you ever find bureaucrats standing in line to incriminate themselves? And to what "bandwagon" are you referring? I thought it was only one man pushing the mattress wrapping campaign?

"If this is true, why is it not on the New Zealand Ministry of Health website? Why is it not on ANY single solitary SIDS organization website? It just doesn't make any sense." You are right- it doesn't make sense. But that doesn't mean mattress wrapping is invalid. Does THAT make sense? To ignore it along with the organizations who have no right to your blind trust?

Dr. Sprott is not the only scientist or doctor out there who promotes mattress wrapping. As a matter of fact, he did not discover the cause of SIDS on his own. For people who just don't want to accept Dr. Sprott and his findings by what they read on the web, I encourage them to get a copy of Cot Death Cover-up? where they can learn what has really happened behind the scenes in the SIDS/crib death industry. You can read chapter one and decide if you want to read more. What is not fair is people accusing Dr. Sprott of inventing the whole mattress wrapping campaign to sell mattresses or BabeSafe covers.

Some other things I have read include information on wrapping a baby's mattress with foil or cotton. I don't know about foil, but cotton does not ward off the toxic gases OR the chemicals off-gassing from the mattress. I've also read about people using organic, or natural mattresses, and then using waterproof mattress pads under baby, which is just as bad as using conventional mattresses! One thing that really blows people away, because it is supposed to be so natural, is that wool is also not recommended for use under babies in regards to crib death prevention. This is because wool and sheepskin often contain phosphorus, arsenic, or antimony, all of which can lead to toxic nerve gas production.

So in a nutshell, you MUST sit down and read all the information regarding Dr. Sprott's work. Do not take a part of it, something you heard from someone else, and your own opinion and expect to have the facts. You can learn more at Prevent SIDS, and there are media releases here at my blog if you would like to call Dr. Sprott yourself. Because the media isn't doing it, and our government isn't doing it, it is up to us as parents to do the research and act, whether it's protecting our own babies or informing other parents.

Sunday, February 03, 2008



New Zealand cot death (SIDS) research by Professor E A Mitchell published in the February 2008 issue of the European Journal of Pediatrics (1) is invalidated by biased sampling and incorrect statistical analysis, says New Zealand cot death prevention expert Dr Jim Sprott OBE.

The research reports a 2005 postal survey of 400 Auckland mothers regarding practices adopted for cot death prevention. (2) On the basis of 280 responses, Dr Mitchell reported the incidence of mattress-wrapping for cot death prevention as being 21.7%; and concluded that even if mattress-wrapping were 100% effective in preventing cot death, the practice could have reduced the New Zealand cot death rate by only 22% from 1994 to 2004 (as compared with an actual reduction of 63%).

"Dr Mitchell's research is invalid," stated Dr Sprott.

"First, the research sample was biased. The mothers were recruited from the birth list at Auckland City Hospital, which is a New Zealand Ministry of Health hospital; and the Ministry's policy on mattress-wrapping is that there is no evidence of a link between mattresses and cot death risk. Obviously, sourcing survey participants from Auckland City Hospital (many of whom would have attended antenatal classes at which the Ministry's policy on mattress-wrapping was presented) will have resulted in a highly unreliable statistic for the incidence of mattress-wrapping in the general community. It is likely that the incidence of mattress-wrapping has been under-reported."

In order to survey the incidence of mattress-wrapping in the New Zealand community, survey participants must be sourced from records of the New Zealand Registrar of Births, not records of a Ministry of Health hospital, said Dr Sprott.

"Secondly, Dr Mitchell's statistical analysis is nonsense," stated Dr Sprott. "In any group of medical interventions aimed at the same result (for example, prevention of a particular disease), it would be entirely possible for one intervention practised by (say) 40% of a population group to result in (say) 70% of the reduction of the incidence of the disease. As a matter of statistics, the efficacy of a particular intervention is not by definition linked to the percentage number of the group who practise that intervention.

"Dr Mitchell's claim that if 22% of babies sleep on wrapped mattresses, that can account for only 22% of the reduction in the cot death rate, is simply incorrect."

Dr Sprott said it was noteworthy that the medical statistician involved in the Auckland survey (Dr A W Stewart of Auckland University Medical School) was not listed as a co-author of Dr Mitchell's mattress-wrapping research published in the European Journal of Pediatrics, despite the fact that Dr Stewart co-authored other results from the survey not relating to mattress-wrapping and published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in 2006. (3)

New Zealand Doctor Online, which published a report of Dr Mitchell's mattress-wrapping research on 11 December 2007, has now amended its website claim that "Mattress wrapping doesn't account for fall in SIDS deaths".

"Clearly, that claim by New Zealand Doctor Online was defamatory of mattress-wrapping products which are marketed for cot death prevention," said Dr Sprott. "Since 1995 an estimated 165,000 New Zealand babies have slept on mattresses wrapped for cot death prevention. There has been no reported cot death among those babies, and furthermore the New Zealand cot death rate has fallen by 67%. (4)

The Editor in Chief of the European Journal of Pediatrics has referred Dr Mitchell's research to the publisher of the journal (Springer Science & Business Media) for legal purposes.

Dr Sprott noted that Dr Mitchell's research may be publicised at the 10th SIDS International Conference, to be held in Britain in June 2008. Accordingly, Dr Sprott will be notifying cot death researchers internationally regarding the biased sampling and invalid statistical analysis in Dr Mitchell's research.
1. Mitchell, E A, Wrapping a cot mattress in plastic does not explain the continuing fall in SIDS mortality, European Journal of Pediatrics 2008; 167(2): 251-252 (Short Report).
2. "Survey of infant care practices that have been recommended for SIDS prevention", Auckland Ethics Committee reference AKY/04/08/217. Researchers: E Mitchell, L Hutchison, A Stewart, D Tipene-Leach, R Haretuku, M Battin.
3. Hutchison, L, Stewart, A W, Mitchell, E, SIDS-protective infant care practices among Auckland, New Zealand mothers, NZ Med J 2006; 119(1247): U2365.
4. Mattress-wrapping statistic based on two research studies which reported the incidence of mattress-wrapping in New Zealand: NZ Med J 2000; 113: 8-10; NZ Med J 2000; 113: 326-327. Source of cot death statistics: New Zealand Ministry of Health.

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