People For Clean

People fighting to keep our mattresses and bedding clean from toxic flame retardant chemicals
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Rebuttals to Proponents Statements in San Francisco Chronicle Article

Most barrier systems contain Antimony Oxide. The most popular systems use Modacrylic Fibers which have Antimony Oxide spun with the fiber. Proponents call this an inherently flame resistant fiber. When pressed they say it is chemically bound and cannot be released. If you read the CPSC draft law it tells you Antimony may be released with perspiration, and more study is needed.

 European researchers have also proven and measured Antimony released from mattresses.

International Sleep Products Association (ISPA) tells you the barriers are three or four layers down, which is simply not usually true. Then they attack Waterbeds which can usually pass the flame test without a chemical barrier, depending on the amount of filling in the quilting. Bare waterbeds are exempt from the law.


It is not surprising ISPA attacks waterbeds, airbeds, and all other types of non-innerspring mattresses. ISPA represents innerspring mattress manufacturers and pushes for this law apparently for their own benefit. They have seen their market share decline as specialty, non-innerspring, newer technology mattresses have recently grown from 10% to 30% of the market. We can only speculate their real reasons for wanting this law, but it seems clear the law will increase their revenue on the same number of unit sales, put specialty beds at a disadvantage compared to steel springs, and protect their turf from imports and smaller competition with high testing and compliance costs.


From what I can tell, the most popular system in use is fluffy polyester batting with Modacrylic fibers mixed in (Antimony Oxide), quilted in directly under the ticking, not three or four levels down.


I have a copy of a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) on the flame barrier Harrison Murphy sells. It clearly states the barrier contains Modacrylic (antimony oxide) and fiberglass.  Fiberglass is the only inherently flame retardant fiber that can pass this test without added chemicals that I or the CPSC knows of.  Fiberglass has health risks of its own, experts say we should not breathe tiny particles of fiberglass and consider it as bad as Asbestos.


In mattresses I only see Kevlar used in the thread to hold the flame barriers together. Para-aramids or meta-aramids may be mixed in with Basofil systems. These chemicals have some cancer causing ingredients, though at less than one percent.


Basofil appears to be a popular system. I think this is the same system the CPSC talks about in their proposed law. If so, It is made from the reaction of melamine and formaldehyde.  It is the only system the CPSC calls low risk, all the others are considered higher risk. However, it contains a small amount of free formaldehyde. All things break down over time. Will this system release even more formaldehyde over time? No one knows. Formaldehyde is very toxic and cancer causing. Even a small amount may prove toxic to humans sleeping in it over time. This system could prove to be the most harmful.


Coincidentally, BASF, a multi-billion dollar company, sold off its Basofil division at a time when it was becoming clear the new mattress fire law would become a national standard. This will dramatically increase Basofil’s revenue with a huge new market. Why would BASF sell off a division about to experience huge sales gains? Do they know something we don’t? Were they concerned about potential legal liabilities?


Gordon Damant’s statement about Boric Acid (Roach Killer) is ridiculous when he states: "It has been studied all over the world and has come out clean as far as toxicity is concerned." We know it is incredibly poisonous to people, though it has never been studied in mattresses. Boric Acid is readily absorbed through damaged skin. It has killed babies when applied in diluted form to diaper rash. The CPSC says more study is needed and "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) There is new research published by the EPA in June 2004 that shows Boric Acid is even more dangerous than once thought. The EPA now warns: “Use without dermal protection may result in serious chronic and developmental effects”


Then there are Boric Acid systems. I dissected a major brand’s mattress and found they had a 1/8 inch thick compressible layer of fluffy polyester batting just under the ticking followed by an inch thick layer of cotton batting that contains Boric Acid and Modacrylic fibers mixed in. I have a copy of a letter which states they use Boric Acid in their system, if you would like a copy.  This brand is the number two or three brand in the nation and has at least 15% of the total mattress market. They decided to try to gain market advantage by putting this system in all their mattresses nationwide about a year ago. They advertise and get free publicity for having, ironically, the safe mattress. They already have over three million of these mattresses in use. I am concerned about the future health of these people.


I am sure it is not just this one brand. Many more will likely use this system as it is the least expensive. However, I have not yet seen another major brand using it. It is controversial even within the mattress industry. Most see Boric Acid as risky and are choosing other barrier systems.


I personally know Whitney Davis, Dick Doyle, Gordon Damant, and Harrison Murphy. Based on my meeting with Whitney Davis, I think he also worries about the risks of Boric Acid.


Treated cotton batting contains 10% to 14% Boric Acid by weight to meet the cigarette test. I weighed the cotton batting in the dissected mattresses. If you assume 10% boric acid, a queen mattress would contain 1.5 pounds of Boric Acid in its surface. I call that a large amount when a single dose of 2-3 grams has killed humans. What will it do to people sleeping in it for many years? No one knows, yet.


Neither the CPSC nor I have yet found a barrier system that does not require dangerous chemicals. See quotable truths on chemicals in mattresses, pages 138 to 162 of  the CPSC draft of this new law. See quotes and links to this document:


The CPSC admits they are guessing on the safety of these chemicals and more study is needed. I wish CPSC commissioners would also read the health effects section of their own proposed law.


It is unfortunate proponents distort the truth on this issue, peoples lives are at stake. Laura did a great story and raised the issues of the risks. She did a lot of work with all the people she interviewed. Thanks to her lead more media may also report this story and expose the risks.  I hope professional journalists will take up the story from where Laura left off and expose the truths about this chemical use that the proponents are trying to hide.


The human consequences of guessing wrong on the safety of theses chemicals in mattresses are huge. If we make even the smallest mistake, millions of people could die.