breaking news

FINAL: Texas Tech 27, Texas 23

UT study finds crib mattresses emit volatile organic compounds


Babies are exposed to chemical emissions from crib mattresses while they sleep, according to a new study from the University of Texas at Austin.

A team of UT environmental engineers analyzed the foam padding and plastic covers of 20 new and old crib mattresses and found that they emitted volatile organic compounds — known as VOCs — chemicals similar to those found in lemon-scented sprays and other household items.

“We want to have a better understanding of the sleeping environments for infants and provide a baseline for future research,” said Brandon Boor, the engineering graduate student who conducted the study in conjunction with the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, where he lives.

The study did not look at the health effects of breathing in such chemicals, though the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says such compounds are irritants that, in some cases, may cause cancer.

Charles Weschler, a professor of environmental and occupational medicine at Rutgers University, said the research was valuable but did not believe the concentration was alarming, according to the news release.

The study found new crib mattresses release four times as many chemicals as older mattresses, which Boor attributed to older mattresses having more time to air out. Also, the chemical emissions were twice as high in the immediate breathing area compared with the rest of the room because the air in the rest of the room dilutes the chemicals.

Still, the chemicals were released from the mattresses at rates similar to other household products, such as laminate flooring and wall coverings, the study found.

The research looked at several different brands of mattresses, though the study did not disclose the manufacturers’ names. The study was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Nordic Research Opportunity. None of the researchers received other funding that might pose a conflict of interest, the university said.

The engineers said they were interested in studying the crib mattresses because of the time babies spend sleeping — between 50 and 60 percent of their day.

Ying Xu, the UT professor who supervised the study, called it the “initial phase” of research into the sleeping environments of babies. Infants are more susceptible to indoor pollutants because, proportionally speaking, they breathe in more air per pound of body weight than adults.

“As researchers we are responsible for investigating whether there are potentially harmful chemicals in these products, measure the levels of these chemicals, whether they are causing risk, and what we can do to reduce that risk,” she said.

The UT study looked strictly at volatile organic compounds, not the flame retardant chemicals polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs, that have been banned in Europe and phased out in the United States.

Xu said the team’s future research will look at some of those other types of chemicals and examine what alternative green chemicals could be used instead.

Allison Mack, owner of Austin Moms Blog and mother of two young boys, said she would wait for more details before panicking about crib mattresses. Studies can become overwhelming for parents because of the sheer number released and the sometimes contradicting findings, she said.

“It’s one of those things: You want to have your child on a firm and sturdy mattress—because there’s a study on that—but now that mattress is possibly emitting these chemicals into your child’s lungs.”

“There’s a happy medium for studies and how you respond to them as a parent,” she said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Trump tweets he 'took a pass' at being named Time's person of the year
Trump tweets he 'took a pass' at being named Time's person of the year

President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that he “took a pass” at being named Time magazine’s “Person of the Year,” but the company’s chief content officer said there “wasn’t a speck of truth” in the president’s social media comment, CNN reported. >> Read more trending news &ldquo...
Florida teen in custody at border, is ‘person of interest’ in grandmother’s death
Florida teen in custody at border, is ‘person of interest’ in grandmother’s death

A 15-year-old Florida teen is in custody at the U.S.-Canada border, hours after police discovered the body of a woman believed to be his missing grandmother in a shallow grave near the boy’s home, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported. Logan Tyler Mott was detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection as he tried to enter...
TEXAS DAM SAFETY: Statesman investigation prompts review by lawmakers
TEXAS DAM SAFETY: Statesman investigation prompts review by lawmakers

Key members of the Legislature and the mayor of Austin say they are looking into the safety and regulation of dams after an American-Statesman investigation that revealed shortcomings. “We will revisit the issue dealing with dam infrastructure and make sure we’re not putting people at risk,” said state Rep. Lyle Larson, chairman of...
PolitiFact: Cost estimates of ending worker program vary widely
PolitiFact: Cost estimates of ending worker program vary widely

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, claimed the U.S. economy would be negatively impacted if the Trump administration eliminated an immigration protection mostly benefiting Central Americans. The U.S. government routinely reviews whether to extend or terminate a country’s Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, designation, applied to countries...
Could ‘dockless’ bike-share be an Uber-Lyft replay for Austin?
Could ‘dockless’ bike-share be an Uber-Lyft replay for Austin?

The sudden appearance of several dozen “dockless” bikes back in March might have a familiar ring to anyone who watched Uber and Lyft barge unauthorized into the Austin market back in 2014. The rental bicycles, some of them bright yellow and others a non-Austintatious shade of orange, simply showed up here and there on downtown Austin streets...
More Stories