New Report Finds Harmful Flame Retardant Chemicals in Crib Mattresses As New York Legislators Propose Bans in Children’s Products and More

Clean & Healthy New York and the Ecology Center partnered to analyze 227 crib mattresses from 37 different companies and to test 13 of them to understand component materials and identify the presence of chemicals of concern

New York, NY – July 30th 2020 – Advocates released a new report, “The Mattress Still Matters,” which explores and shares findings on the materials and chemicals present in crib mattresses. Chemicals of concern found include are organohalogen and organophosphate flame retardants.

The report is a combination of a market survey – Clean and Healthy New York reviewed product webpages for 227 products from 37 brands for disclosed materials and the extent to which brands provide that information to consumers – and laboratory testing – Ecology Center tested over 100 components of 13 crib mattress models, each from different brands, for chemicals of concern.

While few companies share full information about their approach to meeting flammability standards, the report found:

  • Harmful additives are present but not disclosed: Of the 13 crib mattresses that were tested, three contained chlorine indicating flame retardants, one contained bromine. One product included bromine, chlorine, and phosphorus-based compounds.

  • Two brands disclosed use of phosphorus-based flame retardants in their online product descriptions, and one brand disclosed use of modacrylic (which contains chlorine).

  • Safer approaches included wool, cotton, polylactic acid, and avoidance of added chemicals by designing the product to meet flammability standards without them. The market survey identified ten brands that use only these safer options.

“The Mattress Still Matters report demonstrates the challenges parents face when choosing products for their children. They can’t perform the hours of research or expensive testing necessary to have all the facts. That’s why it’s so important for legislative champions to advance laws that make sure products are safe, right from the start,” said Kathleen A. Curtis, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York.

In 2016, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission published guidance to manufacturers to stop using an entire class of toxic flame retardants, and urged consumers to stop buying products that contain them. Since then, several states and the European Union have acted to codify this guidance.


New York State legislators are also taking action to protect families’ health by proposing legislation that would ban all covered flame retardant chemicals in products made for children, mattress foam, and upholstered furniture, and phase out organohalogen flame retardants in electronic display casings and stands. Similar legislation has passed in California, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire and the European Union.

"It is vital for New York to build off the Child Safe Products Act by taking further steps to protect children from toxic chemicals. I am proud to sponsor legislation that will phase out the most dangerous use of flame retardants in mattresses and other products to ensure New Yorkers, and their children, are not exposed to these hazardous toxins. I would like to thank Clean and Healthy New York for their work and advocacy on this critical issue," said Senator Todd Kaminsky, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee.

Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Steve Englebright said, “Dangerous chemicals, which can cause lifelong harm to young children, shouldn’t be used in crib mattresses or other furniture.  Unfortunately, our federal government is asleep at the switch allowing these products on the market.  I will take action to protect New York families from this threat.”

Flame retardant chemicals have been the subject of a guidance from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which found that the class of organohalogen flame retardants pose the following human health hazards: “Reproductive impairment (e.g., abnormal gonadal development, reduced number of ovarian follicles, reduced sperm count, increased time to pregnancy); neurological impacts (e.g., decreased IQ in children, impaired memory, learning deficits, altered motor behavior, hyperactivity); endocrine disruption and interference with thyroid hormone action (potentially contributing to diabetes and obesity); genotoxicity; cancer; and immune disorders.”1

“The last thing parents should have to worry about is exposing their baby to harmful chemicals in crib mattresses. It's unnecessary and dangerous to use flame retardants in crib mattresses and other everyday household products,” said Rich Schrader, New York Policy Director at NRDC. “New York lawmakers should take immediate action to phase out these toxic chemicals, keep our children safe, and let families sleep a little sounder at night.”

According to Philip J. Landrigan, MD, MSc, FAAP in his foreword, “Because the federal agencies are not doing their job, parents need to take action to protect their children’s health. And to take effective action, parents need accurate, honest, unbiased information. That is why this report, The Mattress Still Matters, is so important as it provides critical information for parents that is available nowhere else.”


“Our testing of crib mattresses shows there are a range of mattresses for children on the market. At one end of the spectrum there are products with chemical hazards and little to no information available about what’s in the mattress,” comments Melissa Cooper Sargent, Environmental Health Advocate. “The better products have fewer chemical hazards and safer materials and the manufacturers are much more transparent. It's important for manufacturers to test their own products and have a transparent process in place to avoid chemical hazards, especially for products so commonly used by small children.”


“Parents, legislators, and brands all have roles to play to protect children’s health. While parents can be diligent in asking questions from product makers, brands need to make sure they are making products for children with the healthiest materials available. And legislators must act to ensure harmful chemicals are not allowed, to make sure the lagging brands are held accountable,” said Bobbi Wilding, Deputy Director of Clean and Healthy New York, Director of the Getting Ready for Baby campaign, and primary author of the report. “Newborn babies spend 16-17 hours a day sleeping on a crib mattress, which is a key component of their primary environment for their entire early childhood. No one wants their precious baby sleeping in ‘chemical soup’ and knowledge is key when manufacturers labels and websites omit important information.”

About Clean & Healthy New York/Getting Ready for Baby Campaign

Clean and Healthy New York’s (CHNY) mission is to promote safer chemicals, a sustainable economy, and a healthier world. CHNY empowers people and advances market and government policies and practices, to transform the toxic chemical economy into a just, healthy, sustainable circular economy. CHNY represents, connects, and taps into the power of otherwise isolated constituencies, such as scientists, nurses, pediatricians, procurement officers, teachers, parents, childcare providers and businesses.

About the Ecology Center

Founded in 1970, the Ecology Center is organized for one purpose -- to develop innovative solutions for healthy people and a healthy planet. We believe that the central question of our time is how human beings are going to thrive in the world without destroying the earth's ability to sustain us. In the face of enormous environmental challenges, virtually all sectors of our society are now scrambling to create solutions, and the Ecology Center plays a critical role in advancing the best models.


For more information, please contact Bobbi Wilding, CHNY,, 518-708-3875


The report is available for view:

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