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U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Bans Phthalates Found in Crib Mattresses and Baby Bedding

By Barry A. Cik

As of October 2017, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued a final rule to expand its ban on phthalates in toys and child care articles. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) has been developed for over eight years, in conjunction with scientific literature review of the long-term health effects of exposure to phthalates (pronounced “thalates”). Phthalates are harmful plasticizer chemicals commonly found in crib mattresses and mattress pads.

It’s Time For a Healthy Mattress and Pad for Your Baby’s Crib
Most crib mattresses in use today contain phthalates, a group of chemicals known to affect a child’s developing endocrine (hormonal) system, and which may cause asthma, allergies and even cancer. Phthalates are so hazardous that they have already been banned in many countries of the world.

But America is not yet safe from phthalates in crib mattresses as millions of crib mattresses currently in use contain these banned chemicals. Concerned parents should dispose of their current crib mattress and vinyl pads as they may contain banned substances. Furthermore, other questionable chemicals that remain in baby crib mattresses have yet to be addressed.

Does My Baby’s Crib Mattress Contain Phthalates?
If you’re not sure, then it probably does. Nearly all crib mattresses manufactured in the last several decades have a vinyl waterproof cover. Babies wet and spit up, and their mattresses are especially vulnerable to dampness. With too much moisture in a mattress, it can become an unhealthy haven for bacteria, mold and mildew.

It is in this vinyl waterproof covering that phthalates are found. Vinyl is a plasticized form of PVC. By itself, PVC is toxic enough; it’s widely considered to be one of the most environmentally unfriendly plastics in use today. However, PVC is a hard plastic, made soft and pliable for the surface of a crib mattress by adding hazardous plasticizers called phthalates. Vinyl, and hence phthalates, have also been used as the waterproof membrane in most crib mattress pads.

In February 2009, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) banned three varieties of phthalates (DEHP, DBP, and BBP) for use in baby and children’s mattresses and other baby products.The Final Rule established in October 2017 has removed the 1,000 ppm limit for DNOP and DIDP phthalates and has added new 1,000 ppm limits for DIBP, DPENP, DHEXP, and DCHP phthalates.

While the 2009 rules included bans and limits on phthalates in children’s items small enough to be placed in a child’s mouth, the Final Rule expands the limits to include phthalates in accessible components of all toys for children age 12 and under. Since some phthalates are banned only in toys, they may still be present in vinyl crib mattresses.

Another phthalate chemical known to cause cancer (DnHP) has not yet been banned at all.

What’s The Problem With Phthalates?
Phthalate chemicals leach out of vinyl over time where they can reach your baby or child. Research has linked phthalates with endocrine system problems, especially in boys. In 1997, a study published in the International Journal of Cancer found a high risk of testicular cancer associated with exposure to PVC products. Other research has also linked phthalates with cancer to the testes and to liver problems and other types of cancer. Numerous U.S. government agencies including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The U.S. Department of Health, the FDA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission have issued public safety statements concerning the use of phthalates.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has also reported about unsafe exposure to phthalates. In a study, the AAP noted that phthalate chemicals were animal carcinogens and can cause fetal death, malformations and problems with the endocrine system. The AAP went on to say that the adverse risk to children was greater due to the fact that their bodies and organ systems were still developing.

What Are Phthalates Being Replaced With?
Since phthalates can no longer be used to “plasticize” or soften PVC products intended for babies and children, other plasticizer substitutes are now being used. Are these substitutes any better? Only after years of additional research can this be determined. A more prudent course would be to follow the precautionary principle and remove them entirely. The public is not well served if industry replaces one harmful chemical for another, even if the other is not yet technically banned.

The only reliable approach is to use materials whose safety has been demonstrated and, in all likelihood, will never be banned (e.g. organic cotton and food-grade polyethylene) and to perform regular testing to ensure that no harmful chemicals are contained in the product. In other words, it’s best to follow the precautionary principle. Selecting products that have been tested and verified by independent, third-party certification programs (specifically for off-gassing and chemical emmissions) will go a long way in ensuring that the product will not harm your baby.

In addition to phthalates, questionable chemicals still remain in crib mattresses with more bans likely to follow. It is important to buy a crib mattress from a company you trust, a company that goes above and beyond minimum government requirements.

The Naturepedic® Solution
Naturepedic created the first phthalate-free waterproof crib mattress with the introduction of the No-Compromise™ Organic Baby Crib Mattress. Naturepedic replaces vinyl and all its associated problems with pure food-grade polyethylene (so pure that it meets FDA standards for food contact). Polyethylene is favored by The Green Guide, Greenpeace, and other environmental organizations, and solves the problem of waterproofing a crib mattress without any of the health risks associated with the vinyl/phthalate problem or other waterproofing materials. Polyethylene is naturally soft and flexible (due to its molecular structure) and does not require any plasticizer additives.

Additionally, Naturepedic products are regularly tested and certified by GREENGUARD® to meet industry standards for chemical emissions and indoor air quality. Products certified by organizations like GREENGUARD carry a program certification mark indicating that the product has gone through an extensive evaluation process and continues to be validated on an on-going basis.

In addition to food-grade polyethylene used for waterproofing, Naturepedic also uses organic and non-toxic materials for all other components in its products, so both baby and parents can sleep soundly.

More Information and Resources

Learn more about the problems with crib mattresses
Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA),
Section 108: Products Containing Certain Phthalates FAQs

CPSC Prohibits Certain Phthalates in Children’s Toys and Child Care Products

About the Author:
Barry A. Cik is a board certified environmental engineer and loving grandfather who chose to make a difference in the world when he had his first grandchild. Eager to buy a new crib mattress for the arrival of his first grandchild, he soon discovered that crib mattresses contained hazardous chemicals. So, he decided to use his background and knowledge to produce a better mattress. Today, he is an advocate for protecting our children and grandchildren from unnecessary exposure to toxic chemicals. To learn more about crib mattresses for babies and children, please visit