Should I be concerned about fire retardants in my child's mattress? Yes.
Children are vulnerable to the toxic effects of these chemicals because their brain and other organs are still developing. Researchers have found that children have higher concentrations of flame retardants in their bodies than adults.
We know that exposure to flame retardants can negatively affect motor skills, learning, memory, and hearing in developing babies and young children. And research shows a link to increase aggressive behaviour in young children. The huge body of evidence, shows that flame retardants affect children in the following ways:
|Adverse effects on foetal development||Endocrine and thyroid disruption|
|Neurologic function||Reproductive toxicity|
|Behaviour||Impacts to the immune system|
|Adverse effects on child development||Cancer|
How do these chemicals get into our children and babies?
Why are mattresses a problem? Fire retardant chemicals are skin permeable and are carried in the house by dust and air particles - a mattress acts like a bellows. There are kilos of these chemicals in standard cot mattress and children's mattresses (especially if they are foam!). Children and babies spend a substantial amount of time each day in this toxic soup and children may breathe in 'concerning' levels of the chemicals when they sleep because their bodies are right next to the fabric which is back-coated with these chemicals.
There are hundreds of different types of fire retardant chemicals. The only way to keep your children safe from these is to buy a completely chemical-free product. But don't be fooled. Companies can say they are chemical-free whilst still using these chemicals as they have to meet the UK fire regulations but have no obligation to tell you how they are meeting them. As these fire retardant chemicals are considered a "Safety Matter" by the government, retailers and manufacturers are not required by law to disclose how they meet these regulations. If it's foam - don't buy it - as there is no way it can be chemical free.
Want to do your own further research? Here's a good place to start: click here for an up-to-date list of academic research.