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 university 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 — 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 such chemicals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says such compounds are irritants that, in some cases, may cause cancer.
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.