Volatile Organic Compounds are released into the environment from a number of places in the home. Foam is a prime example – the VOCs come from the adhesives, solvents, catalysts and resins used in the manufacturing process. Long after production, they continue to volatilise. And where is foam found? In crib mattresses, cushion car seats and change tables – where your baby could be breathing in these toxic off-gases.
Infant allergies, asthma and lung infections have always been linked to low levels of VOCs but now researchers have measured the actual quantity being emitted in an average baby’s bedroom… and what they have found is quite frightening.
University of Texas researchers analysed new and used crib mattresses made from polyester and polyurethane foam and compared measurements of VOCs a few metres away from the crib and within the baby’s breathing zone (about 2.5 cm above the mattress).
Four times as many VOCs were released in new mattresses compared to old ones, and over 30 different VOCs were found. Most importantly within the infant’s breathing zone the VOCs were significantly higher than the middle of the room. When you consider the fact that babies sleep about 12-14 hours a day on their cribs, this becomes very scary.
The moral of the story is, keep your baby away from foam mattresses. There are many alternative natural mattress solutions including natural rubber, organic cotton, latex and so on. If these are out of your price range, it is recommended that you set aside a new mattress for six months to let it off-gas sufficiently before letting your baby sleep on it.