After doing some preliminary mattress research, I found a number of chemical names being tossed around. One was Boric Acid used as a flame retardant in crib mattresses.
What is Boric Acid? I've been told by some it's totally natural and safe, Boron is an element found naturally in fruits, which is true.. but have also read Boric Acid is an active ingredient in Roach Killers? Google.com says-
- Known also as Boracic acid, Orthoboric acid and Acidum boricum
- Contains Boron, Hydrogen and Oxygen and is a colorless crystal
- It is a weak acid used in insecticides, flame retardants, and nuclear power
- Used in the manufacturing of glass, paper, adhesives, detergents, food preservation
- "Moderately" toxic
Boric Acid is used in some Crib mattresses to make them flame retardant. It is usually combined with a fiber creating a flame retardant layer underneath the surface of a mattress.
"Here is how Boric Acid is applied to cotton batting: “Generally applied in the mixing machine prior to garneting, boric acid is introduced to the cotton fibers along with a small amount of oil and chemical surfactant. To further achieve even distribution and adherence to the fibers, the boric acid is ground to a very fine consistency prior to application. … Applied as a white powder, boric acid is inorganic and is odorless.” (NCBI) Thus you can see Boric Acid is not chemically bound and exists as loose dust in the surface of our mattresses. As the mattress gets older and oils dry out even more Boric Acid will kick up into our faces with every body movement for us to breathe and absorb."
Some of the risks of using Boric Acid as a flame retardant I've found are-
"Boric Acid is a known reproductive and developmental toxin, and a known respiratory irritant. Exposure also demonstrated injury to the gonads and to the developing fetus. There is a high prenatal mortality with overexposure. Neonatal children are unusually susceptible. There are already 6,463 U.S. cases of Boric Acid poisoning each year. One human exposure study showed reduced sperm counts and reduced sexual activity in humans."
"The EPA and CDC warn of Reproductive, Developmental, and Neurological Damage. It has many known health risks including, genital damage, brain damage, anemia, infertility, birth defects, and death, and at the very least may dry and irritate your skin and lungs.
Boric Acid is absorbed through skin contact, particularly damaged skin, and inhalation. Quoting the federally required Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Boric Acid (H3BO3):Inhalation: Causes irritation to the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. May be absorbed from the mucous membranes, and depending on the amount of exposure could result in the development of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, rash, headache, fall in body temperature, low blood pressure, renal injury, cyanosis, coma, and death.
Chronic Exposure: Prolonged absorption causes weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rash, convulsions and anemia. Liver and particularly the kidneys may be susceptible. Studies of dogs and rats have shown that infertility and damage to testes can result from acute or chronic ingestion of boric acid. Evidence of toxic effects on the human reproductive system is inadequate. "
"There are no labeling requirements of the chemicals in beds. Mattress makers are under
no obligation to tell the truth. They all claim they don’t use chemicals or say their systems are nontoxic. The CPSC Table 1 of chemicals used proves these statements wrong. There are no chemical free and safe systems.
There can be two pounds of poison in the surface of your mattress. All the Boric Acid systems also contain Antimony. Other systems include Formaldehyde, Silicon, or Ammonium Polyphosphate, but these were not studied. The CPSC did prove Ammonium Polyphosphate leaches from mattresses in large quantities. It is doubtful our children absorbing this fertilizer will grow any better.
Over a pound of Boric Acid exists as loose dust simply mixed with cotton fibers in flameproof mattresses. It is a known respiratory irritant, also used as Roach Killer, is a known reproductive and developmental toxin, “Demonstrated injury to the gonads and to the developing fetus.” “High prenatal mortality. Neonatal children are unusually susceptible.” One human chronic exposure study showed reduced sexual activity and sperm counts. There are already 6,463 U.S. cases of Boric Acid poisoning each year."
"Although no adverse effects have been reported from inhaling boric acid dust, it is absorbed through mucous membranes. Ingestion of 5 grams or more may irritate gastrointestinal tract and affect central nervous system. Contact with dust or aqueous solutions may irritate eyes; no chronic effects have been recognized, but continued contact should be avoided. Dust and solutions are absorbed through burns and open wounds but not through unbroken skin."The MSDS Sheet for Boric Acid http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/englishhtml/b3696.htm
The US Boron Industry says "Conservative estimates of exposure to boron from sleeping on borate-treated mattresses, based on wipe test results after a roller test simulating 10 years of use, show negligible exposure for both adults and children. The estimates were based on a series of conservative assumptions, which are designed to err in the direction of overestimating exposure. For example, it was assumed that a person sleeps naked on a bare mattress with 100% of the body surface in contact with the mattress surface. Similarly, it was assumed that a child licks a 6 x 6 inch area of the surface of a bare mattress daily."
It's up to each individual parent to decide if Boric Acid in a baby's mattress is safe as a flame retardant and needed or not. There are many more websites out there, not cited here, that can help you find information on Boric Acid
How do you know if a crib mattress has Boric Acid as a flame retardant inside? Well, you don't. Companies do not list exact chemicals and even sometimes don't list materials that make up mattresses in their descriptions. It's up to you, the consumer, to find out for yourselves.
Contact the companies who make the crib mattress you are interested in and ask!