Your baby’s exposure to chemical contaminants in their crib mattresses is up-close, extensive, and long-term. Babies sleep about 15 to 18 hours a day during their most fragile developmental months, lying directly on the mattress, breathing in, and absorbing whatever manufacturing chemicals are present in the mattress.

Fiberglass, a form of fiber-reinforced plastic using glass fiber, has become the preferred material to meet mandatory flammability standards—cheap, easy to manufacture, and readily available due to widespread consumption. Be cautious when it comes to traditional mattresses, or look for a natural crib mattress that is free of chemicals.

child sleeping sick

How Are Children Affected by Fiberglass Exposure?

Fiberglass comes in the form of a knitted and woven fabric barrier implanted into the mattress, acting as a flame inhibitor. The tiny shards of glass are not visible to the human eye unless their position is tested in different light sources and angles. Removing the mattress top cover exposes the glass fibers and allows them to be released into the atmosphere. If not careful, once they’re airborne, the dust-like shards can contaminate the designated area, including the entire house.

Fiberglass causes irritation and potentially severe reactions. It can be dangerous to your baby’s health as it can cause eye irritation, rashes, soreness in the nose or throat, and can aggravate bronchitis and asthma symptoms. It can also cause:

Skin irritation – which is the most common health risk from exposure to fiberglass. This occurs when your baby’s skin gets into direct contact with fiberglass particles, resulting in itchiness, skin rashes, and allergic reactions.

Eye irritation – when particles break free from the material, they cause eye irritation and inflammation and may even lead to permanent damage.

Furthermore, inhaling fiberglass particles may trigger upper respiratory reactions such as nasal congestion, sneezing, nasal pruritus, or rhinorrhea. It may exacerbate respiratory symptoms in children with chronic airway diseases, like asthma or bronchitis.

Fiberglass has been listed as a substance reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), an inter-agency program run by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. While this could mean that there is some evidence of fiberglass causing cancer, there’s no definite proof of an effect in humans. More detailed studies need to be performed to assess its carcinogenic potential.

Never Remove the Mattress Cover, Even if it Has a Zipper

Once the cover is removed, the glass fibers immediately disperse into the air, as previously mentioned. Helped by the HVAC system, the glass bits can be easily spread across the entire home, contaminating the air, carpet, furniture, clothing, and virtually everything.

So, don’t make the costly and hazardous mistake of removing the cover as others have done. Before investing in a mattress, make sure you know what’s inside the mattress and take precautions to stay safe.

How to spot a fiberglass-containing mattress:

  • Take a look at your mattress tag: look for words like “fiberglass,” “glass wool,” or “glass fiber”;
  • Check your mattresses’ instructions: if it says “do not remove the cover,” even if it has a zippable cover, then this may mean that there is fiberglass in the mattress. If your mattress cover does not have a label with washing instructions, do not attempt to remove it.
  • If you still have doubts, check the manufacturer’s site, FAQs pages, and customer reviews to indicate whether the mattress contains fiberglass.

For families whose homes were contaminated with glass fibers from the defective mattresses, relocation is recommended until a professional clean-up company removes all the fiberglass from your home.

When Choosing a Crib Mattress, Be Sure to Read the Labels

The crib mattress is one of the surfaces that newborns and toddlers have the most contact with daily, so a well-made organic crib mattress is an essential item in your baby’s nursery. A mattress is considered “green” if it uses minimal chemicals, synthetics, or pesticides. Although technically there are no authentic organic mattresses—because there is currently no government organic certification standard for the mattress industry—it is possible to find an eco-friendly mattress

Enough damage has been inflicted to call for a class-action lawsuit against Zinus, Inc., which claims that their mattresses suffer from a defect that can cause tiny shards of glass to be released into the environment. 

Finally, plaintiffs stated that not only is the outer cover designed with a zipper, which indicates that consumers can unzip the mattress cover and wash it, but the tag did not include a warning about the dangers of exposure; and worst of all, the company knew of the glass shard-releasing defect but concealed and failed to warn consumers about the risks. 

About the author:

Jonathan Sharp is the Director of Claims at Environmental Litigation Group P.C., a law firm located on Birmingham’s southside and has substantial experience in assisting clients to seek compensation for the harm resulted from the use of defective products, asbestos exposure, paraquat exposure, toxins at military bases, and PFAS contamination from the use of AFFF.