If you're interested in SIDS, and more particularly, of lowering the risk of SIDS for your own child, this book is a MUST READ. At the very least, implementing Dr. Sprott's mattress-wrapping advice is a low-cost way of substantially reducing any risk of SIDS to your own child. So, read on.....I will attempt to give you enough info here to either go buy the book as a first step, or go buy a mattress-wrapper right away (google the Web, you can easily buy these in North America...). Needless to say, my partner and I have a mattress wrapper for each of our children.
SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) receives a great deal of coverage, particularly in pre-natal classes for parents, where the only real recommendation is to ensure your baby sleeps on it's back. SIDS is the #1 cause of death of infants between the ages of one month and one year. This is shameful, as Dr. Sprott, an experienced research chemist with a PhD in chemistry and who is an expert in his field, identified the cause of SIDS well over 10 years ago and came up with both recommendations (don't use mattresses soaked with flame retardants and other chemicals) and a very low-cost prevention option for those who couldn't, for whatever reason, make the switch (mattress wrapping using a gas-impermeable plastic covering).
This book covers all of the above and I recommend it strongly to any prospective parent or parent of babies under one year old who is concerned about SIDS and wants to take intelligent pre-emptive action to reduce the risk to their baby. That said, many SIDS groups, as another reviewer has commented, lump many different types of death for babies under the "SIDS" umbrella - ("SIDS" and "OID" - Other Infant Death) which results in some misleading statistics. Sprott is concerned only with the narrow classic definition of SID's - he does not address "OID" and the reader should understand this from the start - there is no fail-safe solution that will prevent all infant deaths.
However, research from New Zealand, where Sprott is from, indicates that since the introduction of "mattress wrapping" following the approach outlined in this book, New Zealand has gone from a country with one of the highest percentages of SID deaths in the world (2.1 deaths per 1000 live births) to a much lower occurrence, with the countrywide SIDS death rate dropping by 56%, and for New Zealanders of European origin, where mattress-wrapping has been adopted on a widespread bases, the SIDS death rate has fallen by approx. 80%. As Sprott points out in his book, these major reductions in New Zealand crib death rates cannot be attributed to orthodox crib death prevention advice (e.g. face-up sleeping) as there has been no material change in that advice in New Zealand since 1992, well before mattress-wrapping became widely prevalent.
Firstly, an overview of Dr. Sprott's theory as to the cause of SIDS: Simply put, Sprott is as positive as an experienced research chemist can be that SIDS is caused by the toxic nerve gases which can be generated from mattresses and certain other bedding used in babies' cribs. These toxic nerve gases are generated when compounds of phosphorus, arsenic and/or antimony from flame retardants in the mattress coverings and fillings combine with household fungus which commonly grows in bedding as well as with saliva from the baby's dribbling. These gases (which are all anticholinesterase agents), when inhaled by a baby or absorbed through the baby's skin, can shut down the baby's central nervous system, stopping breathing and then heart function. Only minute amounts are needed to create a lethal dose. These gases are however, heavier than air and generally trickle off the bed to the floor, which is why sleeping babies on their backs reduces the incidence (they're not breathing in toxic off-gassing) but does not eliminate (there's still skin contact).
Thus, the cause of SIDS in not medical but the result of environmental poisoning. And Sprott does a very good job of looking at SIDS incidents historically and making a comparison with the introduction of flame retardants into mattresses as a result of "safety" considerations. Sprott goes on to propound the use of gas-impermeable mattress covers ("Mattress-wrapping") to provide an impermeable barrier between the baby and the mattress, together with ensuring that bedding used on top of the wrapped mattresses is not capable of the gas generation concerned. Mattress covers are not needed if the parents are willing to sleep their baby on materials that don't contain the flame retardants which react with a common household fungus, to cause a toxic gas. However, these mattresses are usually considerably more expensive, prohibitively so for many parents, and so, mattress-wrapping is usually a more practical solution.
As a previous reviewer also pointed out, and as is made clear in the book, some "orthodox" SIDS researchers say that crib death rates in various countries have fallen without the introduction of mattress-wrapping - and they have. But there is a crucial difference: many babies have died of SIDS where parents followed orthodox SIDS prevention advice; but there has been no reported SIDS deaths on mattresses wrapped in accordance with Dr Sprott's mattress-wrapping protocol. The evidence speaks for itself in this case.
My advice: you'll find much of the information in this book summarized on the internet. If you're still not sure, buy the book - Dr. Sprott does a pretty good job with the evidence and he IS a research chemist with a PhD and considerable job experience, not just a quack out to make a few bucks. It's interesting despite this that while pretty much all SIDS organizations claim that they are researching the causes of SIDS, many of them will not even admit that the "Toxic Gas Theory" exists, and those that do usually dismiss it without carrying out their own research. The toxic gas theory explains every risk factor which medical researchers associate with crib death, and while SIDS organizations ignore it, a considerable amount of research relating to the toxic gas theory has been published in peer-reviewed medical and other scientific journals. In fact, mattress-wrapping for crib death prevention is supported by wider research than supports the introduction of various items of orthodox crib death prevention advice (including face-up sleeping).
If you're read this far and are still interested, go buy the book, it should convince you. I did, and at the pre-natal class my wife and I attended, the nurse running the course was quite happy to allow me to give my little spiel on SIDs and provide a handout to the other parents based on the content of this book. Do the same! The more widely this knowledge percolates, the greater the chances of reducing the tragedy of SIDS.