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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.