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U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) opens public comment period on new law to flameproof mattresses, this requires known toxic FR chemicals. Comment period closes March 14, 2005 (Last Chance to Stop this Law!)

This law affects you! You and your family will soon sleep in these chemicals for the rest of your lives. Is it safe? We know the chemicals used are very poisonous and are concentrated at the surface of the mattress. These mattresses have never been tested for offgassing or exposure. Our exposure is intimate and chronic. In addition to mattresses, the laws also soon require these chemicals in our bedclothes, our mattress pads, sheets, blankets, bedspreads, comforters, and pillows.

Happy New Year, Californians can no longer buy a clean mattress without a prescription, the rest of the nation is not far behind. The new law will be effective nationwide within the year.

Mattress Burn Test Photo
Send comments directly to: It requires a lot of poisonous flame retardant chemicals to pass this large open flame test (Click for larger image.)

If our government guesses correctly for us in predicting the future of the next 40 or more years, that it is safe for everyone to sleep in these chemicals, we optimistically will save up to 300 people from fire. However, our exposure in mattresses is more close and chronic than any other type of chemical exposure. We have full body and breathing contact eight hours every day. If they are wrong, and we have been frequently wrong in the past, as many flame retardant chemicals have been banned after we find human damage. We could harm or kill up to 300 million people. All of us sleep on a mattress. The risk is huge. If we later find harm to only 1% of our population, we will have harmed 3 million people. Is the benefit worth the risk?
Hippocrates left us with the admonition: "First do no harm.”

Proponents try to tell us they use inherently flame retardant fibers, not flame retardant chemicals, that Boric Acid has been widely used in innerspring mattresses for more than thirty years, and that they have done due diligence to be sure these chemicals are safe for human exposure in mattresses. None of these statements are true. See above linked words and the rest of this story for rebuttals. See dangers of these chemicals, their Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), References, and contacts who favor or oppose this law below. See the whole story at or simply were you can also vote on this issue. The Health Sciences Division of the CPSC says more study is needed, yet this will soon become law.

Leading doctors Allan D. Lieberman, M.D., F.A.A.E.M. and Doris J. Rapp, M.D., F.A.A.A., F.A.A.P., who specialize in human chemical exposure, strongly oppose these chemicals in mattresses, and this law. “We live in a very technologically advanced world, which advocates the advantages of these technologies but rarely ever considers the disadvantages or potential harm. ... It seems ill advised to expose hundreds of millions of people to a potential health hazard in order to protect a very few. …. I am absolutely opposed to adding the proposed toxic chemicals to mattresses."  Allan D. Lieberman, MD. See their full comments, address, email, and phone by clicking here.

Please review the facts and comment on this issue. It is our last chance to stop this law. Please send comments directly to the CPSC:, Subject: Mattress NPR, or fax 301-504-0127, see full address below.



Risks of  FR Law

In spite of warnings from their own Health Sciences Division, the CPSC is rushing this law through. This division of the CPSC warns more study is needed, and that “CPSC staff has previously provided its opinion that boric anhydride and Boric Acid are acutely toxic, ... Moreover, it is staff's opinion that Boric Acid [Yes, the Roach Killer] falls within the CPSC's chronic toxicity guidelines issued under the FHSA. It is a probable reproductive and developmental toxicant in humans, based upon sufficient animal data."(1) Boric Acid/Antimony flame barrier systems are the least expensive choice, and the most widely used. At least one major brand already puts this system in all their mattresses nationwide.

Even though we know infants are unusually susceptible to Boric Acid poisoning, these chemicals are also required in crib mattresses. “In the past, boric acid was used as a topical treatment for infants with diaper rash. However, even in diluted (3%) form it caused significant toxicity and two deaths.”

Most people trust government would do due diligence to be sure the chemicals used to make mattresses flame proof are safe for human exposure. If you look at the facts you too will become alarmed.

Besides all California mattresses, Millions of new mattresses nationwide already contain these chemicals in anticipation of the new law. There no labeling requirements and you can’t know what chemicals you are getting. (The CPSC states consumers couldn’t discern a safe system,(2) they are right in that there is no safe choice.)

A new California law already effective Jan 1, 2005, and the new federal flammability standards require mattresses to withstand a 12 inch wide open flame on the side for 50 seconds, and a simultaneous 10 inch wide open flame on the top for 70 seconds, and then not ignite for thirty minutes, even though a 1973 law already requires mattresses not ignite from a cigarette burning all the way down. To meet this new standard, new mattresses use a barrier system just under the ticking that is filled with known toxic flame retardant chemicals.

The science of toxicology uses high dose short-term chemical exposure on various animals to predict the effect of low dose long-term exposure on humans. Our risk in mattresses is long-term intense exposure. Science considers type and duration of exposure to determine risk, with chronic exposure to even low doses considered most dangerous. Our exposure in mattresses is literally in your face, full body contact of breathing and absorbing through skin, these chemicals eight hours every day for the rest of our lives. No other type of chemical exposure comes close to the intensity and duration of that in mattresses.

The CPSC lists the following chemicals as the primary ones used in mattress surfaces to meet this law: Boric Acid (yes, the Roach Killer), Formaldehyde, Antimony Trioxide, Decabromodiphenyl Oxide (Brominated flame retardant now being found in women’s breast milk) , Vinylidiene Chloride, Zink Borate, and Melamine, are the main chemicals being used. These chemicals have never been studied for human exposure in mattresses. There are no offgasing studies. Since there is no exposure data the CPSC says a quantitative risk analysis cannot be made. Therefore they are relying on a qualitative risk assessment, CPSC staff’s professional judgment.(3) In other words, they are guessing about exposing 300 million people to these chemicals. If you look at modern scientific reports and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), linked at the bottom of this document, you see that these chemicals are not just slightly toxic, they are incredibly poisonous to people. How we can justify sleeping in these chemicals is incredulous.

The CPSC states two chemical systems are “low risk.” The low risk systems include a “Formaldehyde - Melamine system (Melamine Resins)” and a Vinylidiene Chloride system, while more study is needed for other systems: “Exposure data for antimony, boric acid/zinc borate, and decabromodiphenyl oxide are needed before more definitive conclusions about the potential risk of adverse health effects from these chemicals can be made.” (4)

The CPSC calls Vinylidiene Chloride with Antimony Trioxide (Modacrylic fibers) “Moderate Risk” even though they have no data and quoting the CPSC health sciences division draft of this law “Antimony is regarded as a possible inhalation carcinogen. … There is limited data to suggest that antimony may be released from a polymer matrix. … The results of the limited testing suggest that antimony may be released in measurable quantities from a polymer matrix. … the amount of antimony found in a barrier is expected to be higher than in the polyester fabrics … The amount of antimony migrating from treated barriers is expected to be higher as well.” (5)

For the Formaldehyde and other systems the CPSC states they expect the mattress pad and sheets to provide some protection from this chemical exposure. Then they announce they are going after bedclothes next to make them flameproof, this will require these chemicals in our mattress pads, sheets, blankets, comforters, and pillows.

Ironically the Vinylidene Chloride system they call ‘low risk’ will not pass the flame test without Antimony Trioxide added. Thus there is really only one system they consider to be ‘low risk.’

The CPSC opinion on which barrier systems are low risk is meaningless because most Mattress Manufacturers are actually using the least expensive flame barrier systems that are higher risk, including Boric Acid/Antimony treated cotton barriers, and Modacrylic/Antimony barriers, to flameproof mattresses. Very few use the system the CPSC considers low risk. I question the ‘low risk’ Melamine Resin system. It is made from the reaction of Melamine and Formaldehyde. It has never been tested for outgassing. It contains free Formaldehyde. The CPSC states Formaldehyde may be released. This may be the highest risk system. It shows there is no safe system. Even melamine gives stones in the urinary bladder and Formaldehyde is known to be very poisonous and cancer causing.

This mattress cutaway shows how Boric Acid is used in mattresses. The layer at the surface is fluffy cotton batting treated with Boric Acid. The layer next to the springs is compressed cotton batting treated with Boric Acid. The law label tells us the mattress contains: 47% Urethane Foam, 39% Treated Cotton, 13% Polyester Fiber. Boric Acid exists as loose dust mixed with the cotton fibers, it is not chemically bound. There can be more than 1.5 pounds of Boric Acid in the surface of a queen mattress. In addition the cotton batting also contains Modacrylic with Antimony Oxide.

There are huge health risks from full body contact and breathing these chemicals eight hours a day for the rest of our lives. Our science warns us many of these chemicals are regarded as carcinogenic. Others are known to be a reproductive and developmental toxin: high prenatal mortality, birth defects, reduced fertility, sterility. Liver, kidney, brain, and heart muscle damage are other effects. Numerous other harmful health effects also exist. Aside from inhalation absorption, some of these chemicals can kill from skin contact alone. People with allergies, asthma, preexisting conditions, fetuses, infants, children, elderly, and other special populations, are probably at even greater risk.

Proponents talk about inherently flame retardant fibers. There are no natural fibers that pass this test. The only inherently flame retardant fibers the CPSC mentions, or that I know of, are Para-Aramids (Kevlar) and Fiberglass. Kevlar is a chemical blend that contains some cancer causing chemicals, though at less than .1%, but it is only used in the thread to hold the flame barriers together. Fiberglass is considered to be as bad as Asbestos.(6) Small particles accumulate in your lungs. Asbestos in buildings is considered safe as long as it is left undisturbed. The chemicals in mattresses are disturbed with every body movement of tossing and turning, pushing chemicals and perhaps glass into our face for us to breathe and absorb. The latency period for Asbestos poisoning is 30 to 40 years. What will it be for mattress poisoning?


Benefits of Law

Proponents estimate this law will save up to 300 people per year from fire -- after ten to fourteen years when all existing mattresses are replaced. Thus, with 300 million people in the US, your fire death risk from untreated mattresses is one in one million. Your or your children’s risk of being slowly poisoned from sleeping in toxic chemicals for the rest of your lives is unknown.

According to USA Today, “Though the USA has the world's toughest flame retardancy standards, 3,000 people die in fires each year. The Chemical Manufacturers Association estimates the number would be up to 960 higher without the [1.2 Billion pounds of] flame-retardant chemicals we now use [annually].(7)  “From 1980 to 1998, bedroom fires dropped 68 percent and their related deaths by 52 percent, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Why? -- A standard that was enacted in 1973 that prevents mattress ignition from cigarettes. Do we need more regulation?

It seems unrealistic that these chemicals in mattresses alone will save one-third more people than the current 1.2 billion pounds of flame retardant chemicals we already use annually. If this law eventually saves 50 people it would save one in six million people who are exposed to these chemicals. Your risk of dying in a commercial airline crash is one in fifteen million. We should save every life we can, but what about the risk? Which choice will actually save more lives? Military commanders often have to make life and death decisions. How many would risk one million people to save one? Is this benefit worth the risk?

With no offgassing or exposure data of the poisonous chemicals in mattresses, the CPSC guesses and calls one system ‘low risk’, and another ‘moderate risk’, and then translates both to ‘negligible risk.’ It defies common sense to put 300 million people at even low risk to save 300. What about the millions of unfortunate people who unknowingly get systems in their new mattresses that are considered high risk? The CPSC answers that after we test our entire population other agencies will ban that specific chemical after we find human harm.(8) At this late stage how many millions of people will we have harmed or killed?


Proponents of Law

Look at the innerspring mattress industry who asked for, and pushed very hard for this law. It benefits them by increasing prices, revenue, and profits, and protects their turf by hurting smaller competition with high testing and compliance costs. It benefits the chemical industry who also lobbies for this law. Then look at the facts.

I spoke with the largest mattress retailer in the US who told me: “We can’t fight this law. The big innerspring mattress manufacturers are controlled by investment bankers and don’t care about people. Plus the chemical companies are multi-billion dollar firms; you can’t win against their lobbing efforts.”


Opponents of Law

I don’t try to hide that I am a mattress manufacturer. I have been in business for thirty years and know a lot about my industry. Since investment bankers do not control me, I started and own 100% of the company, I am free to speak my heart on this issue. The more I research this issue, the more alarmed I become. I have been researching and trying to fight this issue for more than a year and a half. I have spent 1,500 personal hours and thousands of dollars on this project. I have sent at least six letters and numerous emails to thousands of news media. I have gotten some coverage in the trade press.

I would be better off financially if I did nothing to fight this issue and simply let it pass into law. I make memory foam mattresses and waterbeds. Waterbeds without quilted covers are exempt from this law since they will not burn. On my memory foam mattresses I could simply add a barrier like everyone else, raise prices and make more money on the same number of unit sales. Since we couldn’t stop this law in California, I recently put up a website called Fortunately, the law allows: “a physician, chiropractor, or osteopath” to prescribe a special mattress free of these chemicals. Strobel makes mattresses that are totally free of flame retardant chemicals and has the special labels and procedures required for prescription beds under the law. Californians and others who are unsure of what chemicals are in new mattresses at least have a choice to get a clean bed with a doctor’s prescription. If I can’t save everyone I want to save as many as possible from this exposure risk. Still, I would rather stop this law than sell prescription beds or waterbeds, my greater concern is our 300 million people.

We have tried to involve retailers to fight this law with letters and emails to 17,192 retailers, and within four days even got a response from ISPA (International Sleep Products Association, the innerspring mattress manufacturers who started and favor this law). They sent out a Special Edition Newsletter to their members trying to rebut us, to show to retailers. They do admit it requires flame retardant chemicals to meet this law. I have links to their rebuttal, as well as all my sources of research. Many retailers also oppose this law, see: retailer-comments.htm. On request we can send you the full list of retailers who oppose this law and made comments with name, address, phone, and email address.

You will also find links to all the documents published by the CPSC on this issue at Quotes-CPSC.htm. Plus links to studies and reports of previous public health disasters from flame retardant chemicals such as PCB’s banned in the 70’s that have continuing health and environmental damage to this day. Deca, and Tris, have also been banned. Brominated flame-retardants are now being found in women’s breast milk. If you read my work you will likely come to believe my intentions are pure. It is of course, up to you, if you mention my name or websites. The issue is what is important. As one voter commented: “Why doesn’t the media expose the truths for our safety.” The huge health risk is very real. Please report this story to protect the public health. Americans should be given the opportunity to send comments to the CPSC on this issue, which directly affects them.


What you can do

People can learn more, vote and leave comments, on this issue at People can also become a member of our organization, for free, by simply checking a box on the vote form. We don’t ask for money, only support in opposing this crazy law.  We will forward your comments to the CPSC. You should also send your comments directly to the CPSC, subject: "Mattress NPR", see full mailing address and fax below. It would also be helpful if you could write or call your legislators, find their contact info at law.htm

You should ask CPSC commissioner Hal Stratton if he has read, or is choosing to ignore the warnings of his own health sciences division. He is pushing this law through as fast as possible. Ask him to do one of their stated options, stop this law. When asked about the health dangers of the chemicals used the CPSC responds: Americans are already exposed to over one billion pounds of additional flame retardant chemicals every year. The logic being that our now sleeping in these chemicals won’t hurt us. (Doctors are already concerned about our toxic load.) Then they state that other government agencies are responsible for banning harmful chemicals. (As the say in the pesticide industry, “there are no safe chemicals, only safe use.”) Finally they say study will be ongoing, meaning that we are going to test our entire population. Then if we find we have harmed people, that specific chemical will be banned.(8) From what our science knows and tells us about the risks of these chemicals it seems likely we will eventually find human harm. Then it will be too late! How many millions of people will we kill or harm? If it is only 15% of the population it will be 45 million people. This chemical exposure in mattresses literally touches everyone; it has the potential to be our largest public health disaster ever.

Please, please call me at 812-282-4388. I can give you a lot more information and rebut what proponents tell you. We don’t seem to learn from our toxic legacies of the past. It would be nice, for once, to have the common sense to prevent this potential disaster. The risk outweighs the benefit.


Sincerely, Mark Strobel, Director, People for Clean, 3131 Industrial Parkway, Jeffersonville IN 47130, Phone: 812-282-4388, Fax: 812-282-6528, Email:  Web: or


(1) "CPSC staff has previously provided its opinion that boric anhydride and boric acid are acutely toxic, ... Moreover, it is staff's opinion that boric acid falls within the CPSC's chronic toxicity guidelines issued under the FHSA. It is a probable reproductive and developmental toxicant in humans, based upon sufficient animal data." (Page 148)

(5)“ Antimony is regarded as a possible inhalation carcinogen. … There is limited data to suggest that antimony may be released from a polymer matrix. … The results of the limited testing suggest that antimony may be released in measurable quantities from a polymer matrix. … the amount of antimony found in a barrier is expected to be higher than in the polyester fabrics … The amount of antimony migrating from treated barriers is expected to be higher as well.” (Page 166),

(2), (8), Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 9 / Thursday, January 13, 2005 / Proposed Rules    2477, p9 of PDF, item 6.:

(4) “Exposure data for antimony, boric acid/zinc borate, and decabromodiphenyl oxide are needed before more definitive conclusions about the potential risk of adverse health effects from these chemicals can be made.”
(3), (4) page 17 of CPSC,

(6) Fiberglass Information Network:



Contacts who favor this law:
Hal Stratton, CPSC Chairman,,, phone: (301) 504-7900 fax: (301) 504-0121; Thomas Moore, Vice Chairman,  phone: (301) 504-7901, fax: (301) 504-0121;  Directorate for Health Sciences, Associate Executive Director - Mary Ann Danello, , phone: (301) 504-7919, fax: (301)504-0079; Ken Giles -, phone: 301-504-7052; U.S. CPSC Headquarters, 4330 East West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814, phone: (301) 504-7908, fax: (301) 504-0399 Website:

Richard (Dick) Doyle, President, International Sleep Products Association (ISPA) (The innerspring mattress manufacturers association)  ISPA asked the CPSC to start this law and strongly supports it. Interestingly, Leggett & Platt, their largest member, (who supplies about 93% of the raw innerspring mattress units to all the mattress brands), plus their next two largest members, Sealy, and Serta, all recently withdrew their membership from ISPA. 501 Wythe Street, Alexandria, VA , 22314-1917 tel 703.683.8371 fax 703. 683.4503


Contacts who oppose this law:
ALLAN D. LIBERMAN, M.D., F.A.A.E.M., Diplomate, American Board of Environmental Medicine, Member, American College of Occupational, & Environmental Medicine, CENTER FOR OCCUPATIONAL & ENVIRONMENTAL MEDICINE, P.A., 7510 NORTHFOREST DRIVE, N. CHARLESTON, SC. 29420-4297, Phone 843-572-1600 / Fax 843-572-1795, Website:   E-mail: 
Doris J. Rapp, MD, F.A.A.A., F.A.A.P.   Is a board-certified environmental medical specialist and pediatric allergist. She was a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Dr. Rapp is the founder of the Practical Allergy Foundation and is a past President of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. She is also the author of several books., 1421 Colvin Blvd, Buffalo, New York 14223, Phone 716-875-0398, Fax 716-875-5399, Website:   Email  
Mark Strobel, President, Strobel Technologies, 3131 Industrial Parkway, Jeffersonville IN 47130, Phone: 812-282-4388, Fax: 812-282-6528, Email:, Web:  On request can send you the full list of retailers who oppose this law and made comments with name, address, phone, and email address.


Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and Scientific Reports on Chemicals used to flameproof mattresses:

EPA Boric Acid Review, June 2004, Conclusions: “have identified the developing fetus and the testes as the two most sensitive targets of boron toxicity … high prenatal mortality, reduced fetal body weight and malformations and variations of the eyes, central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and axial skeleton … The testicular effects that have been reported include reduced organ weight and organ:body weight ratio, atrophy, … reduced fertility and sterility”

CDC Boric Acid Review, Health Effects, 1992, Conclusions: “Demonstrated injury to the gonads and to the developing fetus. … Boron (as boron oxide and boric acid dusts) has been shown to cause irritation of the upper respiratory tract in humans. … Boron does cause health effects following acute dermal exposure. … Neonatal children are unusually susceptible to boron exposure. … Neurological damage is an area of concern following exposure to boron …

Boric Acid MSDS: “Chronic Exposure: Prolonged absorption causes weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rash, convulsions and anemia. Liver and particularly the kidneys may be susceptible.”

Antimony Oxide MSDS: “Potential Health Effects: ... May cause heart to beat irregularly or stop. … Chronic Exposure: Prolonged or repeated exposure may damage the liver and the heart muscle. Prolonged skin contact may cause irritation, dermatitis, itching, and pimple eruptions. There is an association between antimony trioxide production and an increased incidence of lung cancer.”

Vinylidene Chloride MSDS: irritation, symptoms of drunkenness, lung congestion, liver damage, convulsions LONG TERM EXPOSURE: kidney damage, tumors

Decabromodiphenyl Oxide, Brominated Flame Retardant, 82% Bromine Minimum, contains free Bromine,

Bromine MSDS: “Skin Contact: Corrosive! Symptoms may include skin discoloration, pain, serious burns, blistering, and slow healing ulcers. Eye Contact: Corrosive. Can cause blurred vision, redness, pain, severe tissue burns and eye damage. Chronic Exposure: Pulmonary edema, pneumonia, diarrhea, and rashes may be delayed complications of severe exposures.”



Notice: The statements and questions contained in this notice are not intended to convey allegations regarding any particular company, person, or association. Readers should conduct their own investigation of a company or association or person to ascertain the particular policies, practices, and motivations of that entity. We have reported what we believe to be true and correct to the best of our knowledge and opinion at the time of its writing in a free speech effort to avert a public health disaster.

Comments will be received by OMB until March 14, 2005. ADDRESSES: Comments should be filed by email to . Comments also may be filed by telefacsimile to (301)504–0127 or mailed, preferably in five copies, to the Office of the Secretary, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, DC 20207–0001, or delivered to the Office of the Secretary, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Room 502, 4330 East-West Highway, Bethesda, Maryland; telephone (301) 504–7530. Comments should be captioned ‘‘Mattress NPR.’’
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