Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Did the mattress cause SIDS?

I have read up on every SIDS theory that is currently circulating around and one of the most infuriating ones is the "mattress" theory.

For those not familiar with it, it's the idea that the baby's mattress (and all mattresses really) had toxic fumes in it which, in bad times, can cause respiratory problems and in worst times can cause death. This theory was originated by Dr. Sprott who has determined that there is even some fungi (bacteria) in the mattress that was even mentioned in the Bible. (I am not a Google search. It's mind blowing.)

Probably not surprisingly, most of this "research" is being backed by a mattress company who wants you to buy their mattress. Although, technically, any organic or natural mattress should do, they really (REALLY) push their own.

The biggest selling point of this study is the claim that New Zealand has not had any SIDS deaths since 2006 because everyone in New Zealand apparently has these mattresses or these mattress coverings. (Some claims vary and state that there have been no SIDS cases while babies slept on these mattresses, which is a little different...) Voila! SIDS is no more. That's right, all we have to do is follow New Zealand's lead and none of our babies will ever die.

Sounds great, right? I mean, all we have to do is drop a few hundred bucks and we can sleep a lot more peacefully at night.

Except, of course, that is isn't true. New Zealand continues to report approximately 46 cases of SIDS every year. In 2008 alone they reported 50. I tried searching around for this but just type in "no SIDS in New Zealand" and you'll come across all kinds of parenting message boards where people claim that the mattresses are the be all and end all and that there really are NO reports of SIDS in New Zealand. (I am assuming by people who have read Dr. Sprott's claims but haven't done the real research for themselves.)

Here are some of the questions that I have posed regarding this research.

Is the effect cumulative? No.
So if it's not cumulative, then how does this affect  the babies who die of SIDS while being held, in car seats, or on surfaces that are not mattresses? Nobody knows.
Can you point me to the research that shows that more than 100,000 of these special mattresses are being used by babies in New Zealand? No.
Then how did we get that number? That's how many units are estimated to have been sold.
When conducting an investigation into a potential SIDS case, is it routine to ask what type of mattress the infant was sleeping on? No.
Then how can you say that there have been NO deaths in New Zealand on these special mattresses (wrapped or otherwise)? We can't.
What about the babies who were sleeping on brand new mattresses anyway-you know, the ones that (according to the studies) shouldn't contain the bacteria? We don't know. 

Because I know some people are still going to argue that this is the way to go (and that's fine, buy whatever mattress you want) here are some of the counterarguments for the study:

- Mattresses made in the United States in the past 15 years almost all have vinyl protective covers on them which, according to the studies, should theoretically block out the "toxic gasses." I realize that some babies died later and therefore there was time for an accumulation of spit-up, urine, and sweat to form (which supposedly provides a good atmosphere for the gases) but what about those of us who lost our babies at 4 days, 12 days, 7 weeks, etc?  On brand new mattresses?

- One of the key parts of these studies focuses on the fact that SIDS happens most often in low-income homes, presumably because low0income families re-use mattresses which gives them more time to grow the harmful bacteria. But, again, this doesn't take the "high income" families into consideration or the low-income families who used new mattresses. It also makes the (poor) assumption that only low-income families reuse mattresses and I don't like that. Because it's not true.

- Scopulariopsis brevicaulis, the fungus that's supposed to be on the mattresses and is needed for the toxic gasses to be released, is almost never actually found on the mattresses themselves. They've tried to recreate it on lab samples and have been unsuccessful.

- SIDS happens (in large proportions) in countries where mattresses are not used at all.

- According to the theory, death occurs because the toxic gas reduces acetylcholinesterase, which causes heart failure. However, post mortem examinations shows no reduction in acetylclolinesterase.

- Antimony was not added to mattresses before 1988 and yet there were SIDS cases before 1988
at the rate of about 2,000 per year.

- Antimony can be found in most babies, even before they are born and had any exposure to mattresses at all. it could come from the mother's diet or even just regular old dust.

Even the original scientist, Richardson, who came up with the idea has been upset by the way this has all unfolded and has not endorsed the findings.

And speaking of the research...I have found more than one "official" document that gives data. And all of the data is different. Yep. It changes. I was unable to find two reports that had the same statistics and data. I have read more than 25 official studies and none of them convinced me. What I did find, however, was that a lot of the funding for some of the studies was given by...a mattress company.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ironically, a lot of the parents who read these things and then rush off to buy special mattresses or have theirs wrapped are the same ones who claim that they would "never" co-sleep because it "increases the risk of SIDS." Yet, if they'd actually read the mattress studies, bed sharing is considered to be something that can reduce the risk (that's what the New Zealand Cot Death Study found anyway). People pick and choose what they want to believe.