First Candle/SIDS Alliance has carefully followed and reviewed all studies that have been done to try and
substantiate the toxic gas hypothesis but, in short, there has been no real evidence to support the claims.
Attached you will also find additional documentation and information relative to the toxic gas hypothesis. As you will see, organizations and researchers from around the world share our position. Even
experts in New Zealand, where this theory originated, do not support the claims.
Following are some of the main points of the follow-up studies done abroad to support our position here
in the United States:
* There is no difference in antimony in babies that die of cot death/SIDS and other babies;
* Antimony is found in most babies, even before birth (before they could have had any exposure to
mattresses. It could come from maternal diet, but antimony is everywhere, including common
* No antimony was added to mattresses before 1988, and yet SIDS deaths were occurring pre-1988 at
the rate of about 2,000 per year (now less than 500 per year.)
* The year after antimony was first added to mattresses, 1989, was the year that cot deaths began to
decrease - at first a small decrease and then, after 1991 following campaigns to sleep babies on the
back, a rapid decrease - cot deaths dropped in all by over 70% between 1988 and 1995.
* The theory claims that the decrease was due to publicizing advice to wrap mattresses is unfounded:
as of 1993-1995, only 2% of babies were sleeping on wrapped mattresses; babies have also been
found to die on wrapped mattresses.
* Cot death occurs in countries where no antimony has been added to mattresses.
* When comparing babies who die and babies who live, proportionately more of the babies who live
sleep on PVC mattresses.
* According to the theory, death occurs because the toxic gas reduces acetylcholinesterase, leading
to heart failure, but post mortem examinations of babies who die shows no reduction in
* The fungus, Scopulariopsis brevicaulis, that was said to be present on all cot mattresses and which
was essential for the release of toxic gases, is actually hardly ever present on cot mattresses.
In summary, to date, there is insufficient scientific evidence to support the claim that toxic fumes
resulting from a chemical reaction between bed-wetting and a flame retardant chemical used in infant
mattresses (antimony) are a cause of SIDS. According to experts both in the U.S. and abroad, the
mattress wrapping process proposed by proponents of this theory will not aid in preventing a SIDS death.
We encourage parents to avoid old and worn mattresses, especially those that may have foam or padding
exposed (increasing the potential for bacteria) or those that where indentations are made when your
hand is placed firmly on the surface.