If you go onto parenting forums and pose the question whether or not reusing a baby mattress you have used for a previous child is safe, you may find it confusing. You will find a mixture of people who say they did it and they had no problems and those who say it is not advised because it has been shown to be a factor in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Here’s what science tells us
One study shows increased risk of SIDS from use of a used infant mattress:
A Scottish study of SIDS has shown that ‘a valid significant association exists between use of a used infant mattress and an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome. This is particularly true if the mattress is from another home. Insufficient evidence is available to judge whether this relation is cause and effect'. So it’s not something that you would ordinarily want to do. The question remains, however, as to why this should be so?
A theory behind why this occurs has been promoted by a New Zealander, Dr. Jim Sprott, OBE. He maintains that toxic gases created within the baby mattress are the cause. He blames chemical compounds containing phosphorous, arsenic and antimony which have been added to baby mattresses since the 1950s. Fungi that commonly grow in bedding can interact with these chemicals to form dangerous gases (Richardson 1994). These gases are heavier than air, so lie in a thin band close to the surface of the mattress or diffuse away into the general atmosphere. Sprott maintains that these gases can be fatal to the baby, who would show no sign of struggle, and would not show up in an autopsy. Furthermore, he contends that fungal spores remain after a baby has slept on a mattress, so on arrival of a second baby gas production starts sooner and in greater volume.
Dr. Sprott’s theory has not been proven. However, nor has it been disproven. There is still much controversy surrounding his theory among the scientific community.
However, what is undoubtedly true is that the chemical compounds Sprott cites are present in an awful lot of baby mattresses. Government regulations require that baby mattresses are fire retardant and a great many companies add these chemicals to achieve their fire retardancy certification. A New York study for the Sustainable Business Council discovered that 72% of baby mattresses contain chemicals of concern.
At this point, we need to point out a couple of things about the Pure Zees baby mattress. Firstly, we do not use chemicals to achieve our fire retardancy certificate. The material we use in our core is inherently fire retardant, so it’s not necessary.
Secondly, because Pure Zees has a special waterproof membrane is impermeable to urine, faeces, vomit etc, this means that the fungus does not grow inside the mattress core. Therefore there is no fungus to interact with the chemicals to give rise to the toxic gases. In that sense, if you subscribe to Dr. Sprott’s theory, the Pure Zees mattress offers a double protection.
Reuse of a baby mattress linked to a higher rate of wheezing
A study carried out by the University of Auckland in New Zealand also suggests that babies ‘who sleep on old mattresses during the first year of life are more at risk of suffering from breathing disorders such as asthma’.
These babies are more likely to suffer from wheezing at 3.5 years and 7 years. This study was based on 871 children of European descent in New Zealand. It found that 24% of children at age 3.5 and 18% of children at 7 suffered from wheezing and that factors that were associated with this included maternal smoking during pregnancy, being in daycare, antibiotic use, the presence of a dog and sleeping on a used cot mattress in the first year of life. Professor Ed Mitchell also noted that -
“The observation that used cot mattresses are associated with asthma at 7 is particularly intriguing, and may be related to higher levels of house dust mite, endotoxin or other germs in the mattress.”
Once again, the Pure Zees mattress provides a good option here, because it has been proven an effective barrier against allergens, such as the house dust mite, and prevents the growth of fungi in the mattress core.