The Ecology Center teamed up with the Getting Ready for Baby (GRfB) campaign to get a clearer picture of the crib mattress market. GRfB scoured the Internet*, gathering information on 227 mattresses, and sent an extensive survey to crib mattress companies. The Ecology Center's Healthy Stuff lab tested the composition of 13 mattresses purchased in late 2018 and 2019. Read the new report, The Mattress Still Matters--an update of GRfB's 2011The Mattress Matters.

Our infants and young children sleep for the better part of the day. But, what exactly are our little ones laying on, breathing in, and possibly absorbing? Crib mattresses companies don’t have to give us the full list of materials the product contains. Instead they may use manufacturers' claims, such as “natural”, "ecofriendly", “organic”, “sustainable”, or “nontoxic”. What does that really mean? 

Together with GRfB, we have released The Mattress Still Matters to answer these questions. We also compared our test results of 13 mattresses to the manufacturers’ claims.

Mattresses were selected to capture a range of price points, popular brands, and styles. We tested for chemicals of concern using five different analytic methods. We tested for 19 phthalate and non-phthalate plasticizers, 82 flame retardant chemicals, total fluorine indicative of PFAS as well as 43 individual PFAS compounds, and a range of elements, including metals and halogens. 

Each mattress has a core, a cover, and usually at least one other layer. Some mattresses contain a fire barrier layer.

 

Summary of test results 

Scroll down for individual product pictures and information.

Covers

Main cover materials:

  • PVC: Almost half (6 of 13) of the tested crib mattresses had polyvinyl chloride (PVC) covers. Each PVC cover also contained one or more of the following non-phthalate plasticizers: DOTP (dioctyl terephthalate), B2EHA (bis(2-ethylhexyl)adipate), DINCH (diisononyl cyclohexane-1,2-dicarboxylate, trade name Hexamoll) and ASE (alkyl sulfonic acid ester, trade name Mesamoll). Published studies have found plasticizers readily migrate out of PVC and into infants’ breathing space.
  • Non-PVC covers were mostly polyester fabric (polyethylene terephthalate). Some were backed by a second layer of polyurethane, polyurethane and acrylic, or cotton.

PFAS in covers:

  • Waterproofing treatment: Three of the covers (Colgate Mattress®, Safety 1st, and Nook Sleep) had total fluorine levels high enough to suggest intentional PFAS-based treatment for waterproofing. These treatments likely result in a fluoropolymer coating on the covers.
  • Low fluorine levels: Four additional mattresses (Dream on Me, Foundations®, L.A. Baby, and Serta) had lower fluorine levels unlikely to represent intentional use. The source could be residual PFAS chemicals used in manufacturing. LA Baby discloses use of a PFAS waterproofer, which would typically result in fluorine levels higher than that found in our testing of an LA Baby mattress. The reason for this discrepancy is unknown.

Flame retardants in covers:

  • Antimony: Two of the PVC covers (Foundations® and Dream on Me) contained antimony at levels very likely to indicate antimony trioxide as a flame retardant.
  • EHDP (2-ethylhexyl diphenyl phosphate): Two of the PVC covers (Safety 1st and Serta) contained 411 and 143 ppm EHDP, respectively. This chemical may be used as a plasticizer or as a flame retardant.

Cores and padding

Four main core materials:

  • polyurethane foam (6 mattresses)
  • steel coil (3 mattresses)
  • polyester fiber (2 mattresses)
  • polyethylene (PE):
    • The Newton Baby mattress used a breathable PE network.
    • The Naturepedic mattress used PE foam.

Flame retardants found in the cores of two mattresses:

  • The LA Baby mattress had relatively high levels of bromine (0.2%) and chlorine (4.4%) at levels in the polyurethane foam that suggest the presence of halogenated fire retardants. Testing for specific FR chemicals, including multiple brominated diphenyl ethers and chlorinated tris, did not identify the sources of bromine or chlorine. The “eggcrate” part of the foam core was found to contain two phosphorus-based FR chemicals: 559 ppm triphenyl phosphate and 300 ppm tris(4-tert-butylphenyl phosphate).
  • The Newton PE network core contained phosphorus, apparently as a “built-in” or reactive FR, but we were not able to fully identify its molecular structure.

Unexpected materials found in one mattress:

  • The Nook Pebble Lite mattress contained "air spacer" layers reportedly made of "recycled PETE [also known as PET, polyethylene terephthalate]." However, our testing found the air spacers to contain PET, chloroprene (a polymer better known by the brand name Neoprene), and benzoate ester plasticizer (e.g., Benzoflex).  The chlorinated polymer and the plasticizer chemical were undisclosed.

Fire barriers

Mattresses with fire barrier wraps:

  • All 6 mattresses with polyurethane foam cores had fire barrier wraps. The wrap materials included rayon/cellulose, PVC, and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Two of these fire barriers contained elevated antimony, indicating antimony trioxide.
  • One of the metal spring mattresses (Colgate) had a nonwoven wrap and two layers of padding made of polyester/rayon. One of these padding layers contained elevated antimony.

Mattresses with no fire barrier wrap:

  • Mattresses with polyester fiber cores or polyethylene-based cores did not have fire barrier wraps. 

*Product information was first collected from websites in summer 2018. That website review was refreshed in summer 2019 and checked again in February 2020. Products were purchased in late 2018 and 2019 and tested in 2019. This report serves as a snapshot in time.

Published on July 21, 2020

IMPORTANT NOTE: HealthyStuff.org ratings do not provide a measure of health risk or chemical exposure associated with any individual product, or any individual element or related chemical.