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Foam in mattresses causing cot death???

(37 Posts)
Ghosty Sun 20-Oct-02 08:41:43


I have just had a really interesting day ... I went to the Auckland Parent and Child Show (leaving DS with DH so that I could have a good browse) and found myself talking to a Dr Jim Sprott... anyone heard of him?

What he told me really shocked me and has made me think and and I wondered what everyone else thought of this...

Dr Sprott claims that there is one reason and one reason only for Cot Death and that is the levels of poisonous gases that are found in baby's cot mattresses and bassinet mattresses (foam and sprung ones) - they are phosphine, arsine and stibine. These gases apparently are formed by the action of common household fungi and the elements of phospherous, arsenic and antimony found within the mattress.

He says that the ONLY way to eliminate cot death is to buy mattresses that are free from the above elements (virtually impossible) or to wrap your baby's mattress in polythene before putting the bedding on.

I was a little shocked that this man was so adamant that this was the only way to prevent cot death and told him so as I had been led to believe that no one had yet been able to find a definite reason for it, but he says that he is 100% sure and can prove it.

He reckons that

a) you should NEVER put a baby on sheepskin (contains some dangerous chemical)
b) Breastfeeding does not prevent cot death
c) Smoking does not cause cot death
d) When you wrap your mattress in this polythene that he markets you can put your baby to sleep on his side or even on his tummy and be sure that he will not die by cot death.
e) That sleeping your baby feet to foot does not prevent cot death ...

The only way to prevent cot death is to wrap your baby's mattress in polythene thereby stopping these lethal gases from escaping ... according to Dr Jim Sprott.

I asked him why I had never heard of this in the UK and he said that the reason mattresses have these lethal levels of gases is because of the UK government and that they have been covering it up for years ...

I said that that was a very serious thing to say and he agreed it was and said that he is very unpopular with the British and NZ governments.

People here do buy his product but he says that you can buy polythene from any shop (it has to have cerain specifications) and wrap the mattress with it ...

I wondered whether anyone has heard of this ,what should be, IMO, ground breaking information (if it is correct) and what you think ... Is he right or is he mad?

SoupDragon Sun 20-Oct-02 09:03:42

"When you wrap your mattress in this polythene that HE MARKETS" I think this says it all really.

Ghosty Sun 20-Oct-02 09:07:29

That's what I thought but what about saying all of those things against known advice of the SIDS Society ... he also gave me a leafet that gives all the specifications of what kind of polythene to get from any garden centre if you didn't want to get his product ... so he is not just plugging his product ...

SueDonim Sun 20-Oct-02 09:50:30

Ghosty, yes I have heard of this man and there is someone in the UK who promotes his theory. I can't recall her name but will try to find out. I also know someone who sells his mattress covers in the UK although she says she makes no money from it (and I do believe her). Have you tried putting 'SIDS' into a search engine? It comes up with a lot of different sites, some of which refer to his theory.

SueW Sun 20-Oct-02 10:58:12

Sprott's theory is definitely better known in NZ than over here and the mattress covers are more widely sold and used.

Some programme in the UK (Watchdog, Roger Cook) did a survey on mattresses and it caused a bit of a stink at the time but I can't remember what the concusions were. Don't forget it is recommended to buy a new mattress for each child though, in case of build up of fungal spores etc.

We took my DD (now almost 6yo) out to NZ when she was almost a year old and borrowed a cot from the next door nighbour whose daughter was about a year older. She asked if we were going to wrap the mattress but I didn't feel it was necessary (besides DD spent lots of time in bed with me and, I suppose, rarely slept on a new mattress, thinking about it).

There is a lot of research on The FSIDS site and it's worth reading through some of those summaries. There was a hugely comprehensive study carried out by Fleming in 1999 in conjunction with the Department of Health. You can read more if you look under Completed Projects, Project 195.

About mattress wrapping, the comment from the summary on the SIDS site is:

"Plastic mattress covers were not associated with an increased risk; indeed cot death babies were nearly twice as likely to sleep on a mattress with no cover."

I can't remember - has Jim Sprott's research been published in a peer-reviewed journal? And if so, what did the follow up letters say?

It's extremely important that the plastic used is of the right grade. IIRC, Sprott's claim is that no baby has died of SIDS on a amttress wrapped in his grade plastic. However, I am sure I have heard of at least one baby dying because its parents used the wrong grade plastic, which is when these theories become dangerous - because people get a half-*rsed idea of what they are supposed to do.

In the end though, I guess it's up to the individual to make an informed choice and to do that they need to know about the theory and the correct way to wrap.

WideWebWitch Sun 20-Oct-02 10:58:29

I have heard of this from a kiwi friend who is about to investigate. She is there now and is going to report back to me when she has done her research. There is a link to him from the SIDS site IIRC but very little info, hence my friend emailed him and is going to find out more while she's there. Will let you know. He apparently has some very good stats backing him (according to friend) but we haven't delved into them or the methodology and accuracy yet.

PamT Sun 20-Oct-02 11:11:10

I saw a documentary on tv about 6 or7 years ago about cot death and the mattress chemical theory. It was either before DS2 was born or when he was tiny so I took note of what was said (even though nothing was proven) and I bought a mattress cover from Boots which I wrapped around the mattress. I think the original theory was based on fungus or bacteria growing within the foam after a period of use so each of my children had a new mattress. Later theories said that it was chemicals within the foam that were harmful and they recommended that mattresses were given a period of airing before use. After this I decided to never put DD at the vented end of a mattress and the rest was covered with waterproof fabric anyway.

I don't think any one thing causes cot death, the children of some of the most loving and caring parents have been victims. So I think it is wrong of this man to make claims that 'his' product could completely protect against cot death. If it was true, then all mattresses would be covered with it and cot death would be a thing of the past.

A friend of mine had twin girls about the same age as DS2 and one of them died of cot death when she was 11 months old. Tests were carried out on the remaining twin as well as a post mortem on the one who had died and my friend also put a lot of energy into the Foundation for cot death but she never got any answers and must be forever wondering 'what if?'. It would be wonderful if the answer really could be found to prevent any other parents having to suffer the loss of a child in this way.

robinw Sun 20-Oct-02 16:02:42

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jasper Mon 21-Oct-02 00:51:52

I remember when this theory was doing the rounds a long time ago, but I didn't pay much attention as I didn't have kids at the time.
There is one thing though which discredits Dr. Sprott, which is his claim that
"the reason mattresses have these lethal levels of gases is because of the UK government and that they have been covering it up for years ..."

That sort of talk rings alarm bells with me, real conspiract theories stuff which detracts from any truth there might be in his claims.

Tissy Mon 21-Oct-02 08:52:24

If the *only* reason for cot death is the gases in mattresses, why has the "back to sleep" campaign been so successful in reducing SIDS?

Clarinet60 Mon 21-Oct-02 10:50:49

I agree with the last few posts. Once you know someone is a conspiracy theorist, it's hard to take anything else they say seriously. It is worrying though, 'just in case'. I put an extra cover over ds2s blanket last night and worried about it a little bit more than I usually do.

SueDonim Mon 21-Oct-02 13:05:20

Tissy, I think I've read somewhere that it's been claimed by the mattress gas theory supporters that the Back-To-Sleep campaign worked because babies are no longer lying face down in the gases.

zebra Tue 22-Oct-02 00:11:45

Smoking does not cause cot death??? It's *the* biggest risk factor; it makes a *huge* difference. I'm sorry, but if Sprott is discounting smoking, I don't believe anything else he says.

Personally, I believe... [she says about to spout a completely uneducated opinion] ... something prevents babies from trying to breathe in the womb. Whatever the brain mechanism is that causes a newborn to start breathing... it isn't a perfect mechanism, and probably all sorts of things can upset it. Especially anything that makes the air unpleasant to breathe -- including smoking or even possibly smelly new mattresses.

Actually, my babies sleep on cut-up old duvets in their cots (perhaps too soft, or full of "bad" bacteria, but at least I can easily wash the duvet at 95 degrees and kill anything living in it).

Ghosty Tue 22-Oct-02 10:08:06

Thanks, everyone, for those replies ...

SueW, in the last couple of days I have been asking around in my coffee group and at playgroup and it seems EVERYONE in NZ wraps their babies' mattresses - and they've been doing it for 6 years or so!

Apparently, due to the humidity here Auckland has been dubbed the allergy capital of the world (not that we have noticed since we've been here) and that is another reason for people to wrap mattresses ...

I do think that it is scary that he could just stand there and say all those things about smoking etc ... and be so sure!

Something has occurred to me ... what about the days when foam hadn't been invented? When people had only natural fibres to put their babies on? Surely cot death existed then?

star Tue 22-Oct-02 13:56:41

I remember the panic well,I was 2 months off giving birth for the first time.I did so much phoning around manufacturers,shops and suppliers trying to find out where you could buy a mattress without any chemicals in it.In the end I think it was mothercare that sold us a completely natural coconut fibre mattress,but even then the news was so new they gave me the manufacturers number to check myself as they couldn't be sure it was ok.

Clarinet60 Tue 22-Oct-02 19:18:24

Zebra, that's an interesting theory. There is a theory about the breathing centres in the brain switching themselves off in some cases, especially in boys (I forget the details). You never know, one day it could turn out that your idea is close to the mark.

Lucy123 Tue 22-Oct-02 20:11:27

zebra - please expand on the idea that smoking causes cot death. The last study I read said that sleeping position is *the* biggest risk factor (although smoking is a risk factor too).

The last stats I saw said something like the risk is doubled for every hour the baby spends in a smoky room. But also that the risk is 5 times as high for formula as for breast-fed babies and that sleeping position as I say is still the biggest risk factor. I'd like to see more in-depth figures as I'm particularly paranoid but the fact is that no-one knows what causes cot death - all of the risk factors may point to something else (eg. non breast-feeding smokers are more likely to live in damp houses)

robinw Tue 22-Oct-02 21:54:26

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robinw Tue 22-Oct-02 21:55:29

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Clarinet60 Tue 22-Oct-02 22:29:18

Thanks robinw. It's very confusing isn't it. I wonder why the association with softer mattresses? I breastfeed in bed, but when I drop off, I wake up in exactly the same position (hence my rapidly seizing neck and shoulders). Still, I suppose some people might not, and there is always a first time for me. I'm getting increasingly paranoid about this. Much more than I was for DS1 - isn't that bizarre? You'd think you'd be more relaxed with your second baby, but I've spent a lot of time lately thinking about this (even before this thread started!)

forest Wed 23-Oct-02 10:17:55

There is a theroy that babies can't arouse themselves from deep sleep and 'forget' to breathe so leading to cot death. This is I think the reasoning why you are recommened to have your baby in the same room as you for 6 months - they hear mum breathe which reminds them to breathe. Have any of you read research by Dr James McKenna? He believes that sleeping with your baby is important as a prevenative measure against cot death for the following reasons: mother-baby pairs showed more synchronous arousals which keeps the baby from sleeping too deeply; mother and baby were more likely to be in the same stage of sleep for longer periods; sleep-sharing babies spent less time in each cycle of deep sleep. Babies with a tendency toward irregular breathing and apnea experience these episodes during deep sleep.
Back to the chemicals in matresses, I have heard that baby sick can trigger the release of chemicals but don't know any more than that.

SoupDragon Wed 23-Oct-02 10:35:12

robinw "b) if you breastfeed in bed you may flatten the baby" is, I believe, only a factor if you are obese or drunk. It is extremely unlikely for a normal sized sober mother (or father but he won't have been breastfeeding!) to flatten her baby in bed. There are (I believe) a few cases where a baby has become trapped and suffocated on a sofa when co-sleeping there though.

The link between bf babies and lower cot death rates could simply be due to the fact that they, generally, wake more often for feeding. It may not be due to the breastmilk per se - ie if you woke a formula fed baby as often, the risk would be lower. Just my non medical opinion!

Ghosty - if everyone in NZ has been wrapping their mattresses for 6 years, has this significantly affected the cot death rate compared to other countries?

zebra Wed 23-Oct-02 12:36:31

Lucy123: I may have to bow to your superior knowledge. but every time I see the generalised risks for cot death, there is one set for smokers and one set for non-smokers. And the differences were..l I thought something like 8x. An HV also told us (postnatal class) that smoking is the overwhelming factor.

Having trouble inserting the links... boohoo! but try: (says 8 fold) (says 15 fold)

in addition to:

Up to 33% of cases could be prevented, and smoking during pregnancy is under-reported, says the Telegraph .

Clarinet60 Wed 23-Oct-02 21:01:57

Thanks for that link Zebra, it was very interesting. Glad I don't smoke. Have to say, I now all but poke him awake when he sleeps, apart from when I'm in the land of nod myself.

bundle Wed 30-Oct-02 11:09:33

there's something in the BMJ this week about secondhand mattresses & cot deaths.

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