View Full Version : Graco pack n play flame retardant?

01-05-2002, 11:55 AM
I was reading the reviews of graco pack and plays on Amazon and several customers posted reviews stating that the flame retardant used contains arsenic which can cause developmental problems.
Does anyone have any further information regarding this?

01-06-2002, 12:37 AM
I looked on Amazon, but didn't find those reviews. What is the URL?

To be honest, I find that very hard to believe. I think that might fall into the "urban legend" category---we'll try to check with Graco, but I'm sure they'll say that is hogwash.

Alan & Denise Fields, Authors

01-06-2002, 01:05 AM
Thanks for the quick response. Here's the URL... It happens to be under the Pack 'n Play with Bassinet and Parent Organizer - Bordeaux.


Here are the comments in question:

Warning to parents, October 22, 2001
Reviewer: concerned mom from United States
Graco Pack and Plays are treated with Antimony and Arsenic to make them flame retardant. My son has been poisoned through the use of his Pack and Play, purchased in November of 2000. He has very high levels of Antimony and Arsenic in his body. Graco admitted to me that these products contain these poisons. These poisons are currently being linked to autism and ADHD. Beware!

Yes they are using arsenic, December 4, 2001
Reviewer: A baby enthusiast from ca USA
After reading "warning to parents" I decided to follow through and get information directly from Graco. After numerous telephone calls and being put off many times I finally did recieve confirmation from product services that they are using arsenic in their flame retardant. I requested an exact ingredient list which they told me they are unsure if they could get since the playpens are manufactured in "the orient". In addition the person I spoke to kept saying that unless my child was showing signs of having a problem; there was no reason to be worried. She also told me that small amounts of arsenic were acceptable. I know that I will be returning the one I just purchased and not obtaining any more GRACO products.

I hope you get to the bottom of this. If the comments are false, Amazon/Babies 'R Us should remove them.

Thanks again,

Ann Marie

>I looked on Amazon, but didn't find those reviews. What is
>the URL?
>To be honest, I find that very hard to believe. I think that
>might fall into the "urban legend" category---we'll try to
>check with Graco, but I'm sure they'll say that is hogwash.
>Alan & Denise Fields, Authors

01-06-2002, 11:46 PM
We'll check with Graco on this, but I think this isn't true. ( I can't imagine the CPSC allowing ANY company to market a product if it is documented to poison a child). And yes, Babies R Us should remove such comments as they only serve to confuse and scare parents needlessly. If it is a hoax (and I think it is), shame on the people that posted that.

Alan & Denise Fields, Authors

01-11-2002, 11:51 AM
Has anyone got anymore info on this? Yikes!!

01-16-2002, 12:43 AM
I am afraid it is true, not only for the pack and play but for almost all mattressess including crib mattresses, bedding, and children's sleepwear. Check out www.criblife2000.com for further information. My son has autism and high levels of arsenic in his hair and we beleive these factors to be a cause.

01-16-2002, 01:49 AM
I'm not sure this makes sense... if the problem is mold/mildew interacting with chemicals in the mattresses, then rates of SIDS/SUD/various other disorders should be several times higher in damper, more humid seaside climates, and lots lower in arid, prairie climates. No research I have seen has shown this kind of discrepancy.

I also wonder about the website - it seems to be set up to hawk a mattress cover made of "food grade" polyethylene... basically a big sandwich baggie. If they're a non-profit organization, why doesn't their site have the ".org" designation?

And when I read the "Q & A" section of the site, it's full of vague allegations and outright untruths about previous research on SIDS. The site itself ADMITS that there is NO RESEARCH supporting their theory. Here is a cut-and-paste from the site:


Q. What studies have been conducted that might prove or disprove this explanation?

A. The government of England appointed an expert panel in 1994, which voiced the opinion before, during and after their four year investigation that this explanation could not be correct.


The gig is this: if you BUY one of their mattress covers, you get to be a guinea pig in their "study"... which might or might not prove anything whatsoever. But in the meantime, they have your cash. No reputable scientific study CHARGES people to participate! Meanwhile, they do not bother to find out how much time your child spends on their mattress cover, what other risk factors for SIDS exist, the child's state of health... nothing.

I intend no disrespect to you. My nephew is also autistic, and all of us are willing to do anything we can to help him. But this site makes me very angry because it uses vague, frightening statements to try and panic people into buying a product. And that's downright sleazy.



01-16-2002, 11:23 AM
We agree with KathyO---the "proof" that site holds up regarding SIDS is tainted by their efforts to sell a product.

We're open to any scientific evidence on this or any other issue; but we are concerned when unfounded accusations are hurled at a product without basis in fact.

Alan & Denise Fields, Authors

01-16-2002, 11:59 PM
This still really does not answer the question if the Graco Pack n Play is made with arsenic and is it safe to use? Are all their products made with arsenic? I see a lot of people purchasing Pack N Plays at Babies R us all the time. It seems tome that if it was such a health hazard that they would not be able to sell it. But are they making it with arsenic?

01-17-2002, 01:41 PM
Is it made with arsenic? Possibly. Arsenic is present in most flame-retardent compounds. I have not been able to determine whether Graco uses any of these compounds. I wonder whether the Fields might have better clout in getting them to cough up some details.

If arsenic IS present in these products (and we do NOT know whether it is), is it in a dangerous form or at dangerous levels? Again, real data is hard to come by. Remember that arsenic is present in trace amounts everywhere; in the soil, in your drinking water, in cigarette smoke, in house dust... we're encountering it all the time, all our lives. Likewise, the compound used in the flame retardents (I think it's arsenic trioxide, but don't quote me on that) may or may not be dangerous. "Arsenic" sounds like a scary word, but consider: sodium is poisonous. Chlorine is poisonous. Sodium chloride is table salt, and you require a certain amount of it to live.

An evening of searching on reputable medical-research sites did not give me any indication that the retardents are a problem. Some countries have begun to pull them on a "just in case" basis, but more due to public problems with the "a-word", rather than any hard data as yet.

I own a Graco Pack'n'Play. I intend to keep using it. As potential dangers to my baby go, this one is pretty far down the list. I'm not saying that we won't find out something bad later, but in the meantime, I see no reason to panic. I think it's a better investment of my time to work on fire safety in my home, preventing falls and choking, ensuring proper use of my car seat, and making sure that cleaners and medications are stored out of reach. These I KNOW are dangers.

Besides, why are we picking on Graco here? Fire retardents are commonly used in baby products across the board. Choosing a different manufacturer is no guarantee that you won't be facing the same question with their products.



01-17-2002, 02:19 PM
Just an update: today, we left our 4th voice mail message with our contact at Graco regarding this issue. No word yet. They did say they'd get back to us with an answer last week, but they didn't. So, we're working on an answre here folks! Stay tuned.

Alan & Denise Fields, Authors

01-23-2002, 06:29 PM
Hi folks. We finally have an official statement from Graco on this issue. Here it is:

"Graco is committed to the safety of our products and the children that use
them. Fire retardency is one of the critical elements of our safety efforts
and, as part of this, we do treat some of our products with trace amounts of
chemicals that have, over the years, proven to be highly effective and
thoroughly safe. The use of these chemicals is standard across our industry
and their use, in combination, has been tested and endorsed by the ASTM
(American Society for Testing and Materials) and the JPMA (Juvenile Products
Manufacturing Association). It is also important to note that the amounts
of these chemicals used are very small and well below the levels considered
safe by many leading product safety authorities. "

As you can see, Graco doesn't deny using trace amounts of certain unspecified chemicals for fire retardency. I guess that leaves open to debate exactly WHAT chemicals are used; and I'm sure some parents will consider ANY chemicals used to be unacceptable. But---the bottom line---is there a major safety hazard with this product that is poisoning babies (as alleged)? No, we don't think so.

We should also note that Amazon has removed those comments (posted at the beginning of this thread), which we probably says something about the credibility of the allegation.

Hope that helps.,
Alan & Denise Fields, Authors

02-16-2002, 04:54 PM
You may also want to check out www.cotlife2000.com for more information on the link between commercial mattresses and SIDS; this is Dr Sprott's webite; he is the New Zealand researcher on toxic mattresses and SIDS. We opted to skip the Babesafe mattress cover, threw out our old baby mattress, and purchased a 100% organic one from Ecobaby (also available from other natural baby product dealers). Decided not to take any chances this time.

02-16-2002, 10:59 PM
I continue to be very skeptical. This is a more polished site than the other one, but many of his claims are self-contradictory. For example, he claims that the problem is gases generated by PVC in mattresses; then, to support him, he cites a study that shows that infants on PVC mattresses are NOT any more likely to die of SIDS (Case-control study of sudden infant death syndrome in Scotland, 1992-5, British Medical Journal 1997;314:1516-20).

Some other claims he makes are not actually backed up by the research he cites to support them (the Scotland study finds a number of clear risk factors for SIDS, but concludes that the data did not clearly prove that mattress re-use constitutes a risk).

Some of the other studies he cites have nothing whatsoever to do with his theory. (The Chinese study, for example.)

Most, if not all, of his own research has been subsequently disproven - I'd cite you all the references, but I haven't the time at this minute. Look below for a Lancet article refuting his claims.

So - he talks a good show, but his claims don't stand up in the light of day. And, when the pseudoscience is stripped away, his site is still all about making money for himself. That's a total conflict of interest. Would you believe a study showing that cigarettes are actually good for you, if it were done by a cigarette company, and it was not supported by any other studies? Of course you wouldn't.

I'm not saying that your new mattress is a waste of money. Parenthood is stressful enough, and anything that helps you sleep better at night is worth considering. (Besides, I like the idea of eco-friendly products in general).

But I don't think that people should take this guy's scare stories seriously, let alone give him their money.



Article from March 1, 1997 edition of the Lancet:

Cot death debate becomes heated after publication of new research

Following the publication of a new study by researchers based in London, UK, the debate about whether toxic antimony gas biogenerated from PVC mattresses is responsible for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) has once more hit the UK headlines. Commenting on this report and a book by Jim Sprott published this week, Lady Sylvia Limerick, chair of the UK Expert Group on Cot Death Theories, says the antimony toxic gas theory is being investigated, but so far "there is no evidence of risk to babies" from cot mattress PVC.

In 1989 Barry Richardson reported that mattress contamination with Scopulariopsis brevicaulis results in formation of toxic trihydride gases, including stibine from the fire retardant antimony trioxide (Lancet 1990; 335: 670). These gases, he claimed, were responsible for SIDS. A UK government inquiry, set up in 1990 found no evidence for toxic gas generation by mattress PVC and evidence from other research (eg, Lancet 1995; 345: 1044-45, and 346: 1557-58) has not supported Richardson's theory.

Mike Thompson (Birkbeck College) and Ian Thornton (Imperial College of Science Technology and Medicine), whose work is supported by the Foundation for the Study of Infant Death (FSID), now report that antimony concentrations in housedust are generally high in relation to amounts in the earth's crust (Environ Technol 1997; 18: 117-19). "These levels might account for the observed levels of antimony in babies' tissues and hair". They conclude that "non-extreme levels of antimony, whatever its man-made source, are present in houses largely by a general dispersal mechanism". According to FSID these results further discredit the claims of Richardson and Sprott .

The Expert Group's final report on toxic gases and antimony is expected later this year. For now, Limerick and her colleagues have expressed grave concerns about a book published on Feb 27 (The Cot Death Cover-up, Jim Sprott, Penguin) which, they say, "contains extensive factual errors and presents an unproven hypothesis as scientific fact", and which will only serve to worry parents further.

Jane Bradbury

02-16-2002, 11:55 PM
Even though Dr Sprrott's theories have not been proven, neither has any other theory regarding SIDS; so it is still an agonizing mystery. That being said, I cannot imagine that applying chemicals like arsenic, antimony and phosphorous to mattresses (and kid's sleepwear by the way) can be doing our infants (or adults) any good. There would be a lot to lose if there was an admission of fault regaring toxicity of commercial mattresses. So there is no "clean" party here in my view. Everyone has either something to gain or to lose by lining up one way or the other on this issue. So it's buyer beware and weigh the evidence as it exists for onesself. I found Dr Sprott's research that there has not been a single incidence of SIDS in NZ on properly wrapped mattresses compelling enough to believe that there must be something to the mattress "outgassing" therory. An infant's brain is so vulnerable since it is still developing. I am not going to take the chance of exposing my baby to a chemically laden mattress knowing what I now know. But that's a decision everyone has to make for themselves after doing their own research.

02-17-2002, 12:01 AM
I was not happy with Graco's disingenous answer to the Field's inquiry. Graco did not divulge just what chemicals it uses in it's baby product fire retardants. Moreover, Graco did not deny it uses arsenic in its retardants.

Bottom line: Arsenic is a deadly poison. Perhaps the level of arsenic in Graco products, if they contain any arsenic at all, is not harmful. On the other hand, maybe it is. Graco's blanket statement asserting the safety of the chemicals it uses, without actually saying what chemicals it uses, provides little comfort. We are, after all, talking about the health and safety of our children at their most tender and vulnerable stage of development--their babyhood.

Manufacturers of pressure treated lumber, the kind used in childrens' outdoor playsets, have voluntarily agreed to stop treating that lumber with arsenic. Graco should make the same pledge with regards to its products.

02-17-2002, 12:17 PM
I suspect that Graco will go the same way as the pressure treated lumber manufacturers, and change the fire retardents it uses, more due to public pressure around the "a-word" (arsenic) than any research demonstrating an actual problem. I notice that other baby gear manufacturers have remained conspicuously silent throughout the issue, which suggests that they are using the same retardents, and do not want to draw the same attention that has been focused on Graco.

Everything is relative. You are already taking in arsenic and lead in your drinking water, due to trace levels present everywhere in the earth's crust, and breathing in antimony in your house dust, and ingesting naturally produced aflatoxins and mycotoxins in your peanut butter, and eating the poisonous solanine naturally produced by potatoes in your french fries. It's all a question of forms and concentrations. The form of arsenic being discussed here, arsenic trioxide, is also used as a popular and powerful anti-cancer drug under the brand name Trisenox.

This is why I think that we need to find out the whole story before automatically throwing out the proverbial baby with the proverbial bath water.


02-17-2002, 02:09 PM
Hello! I am interested in getting an organic crib mattress from Eco baby, but only saw twin size and up. Can you help me? I want to find one. Thanks!

02-17-2002, 08:22 PM
I am pretty sure their organic crib mattress is on their website, but if you can't find it call 1-888-ECOBABY. Also ask them to send you a catalog which is easier tonavigate than the website. I think I paid $279 including shipping. I did alot ofresearch and that was a fairly goodprice for an organic mattress. It is a very nice comforatble mattress with no plastic at all; just 100% pure organic cotton and wool.

02-17-2002, 08:32 PM
Here's the link to the ECOBABY crib mattress http://www.ecobaby.com/catalog/product.asp?pf%5Fid=CROMATCRI

02-18-2002, 05:04 PM
thank you! I found it and think it looks great. One last question for you, what kind of mattress pad do you use with it? I was confused by the descriptions on the website. Thanks!


02-18-2002, 10:28 PM
I actually ordered a 100% organic cotton mattress pad (vey thick, very soft, beautifully quilted, very well-made, and machine washable) from www.janices.com or call 1-800-JANICES. They sell organic and non-organic products so be sure to look for the organic crib mattress pad. I found their printed catalog much easier to read than their website (actually I could not pull up their website from my computer). You could also order a wool crib mattress pad from ECOBABY. Just call them and they will help you out. They are very nice. ANother site you may want to look into is www.organicbebe.com and www.oskri.com;they have some nice organic baby items including clothing, sheets, and blankets. All the best. Beth

03-07-2002, 03:41 PM
I am a tad confused by all of this. I am due in a few weeks and am borrowing a bassinet from a friend - a Kolcraft. It comes with a mattress with a plastic coating. Do I need a mattress pad? A new mattress? I'd like to wait until I buy a crib before I start with the organic mattres, but all this talk about SIDS and PVC...

Any info would be appreciated.


03-08-2002, 12:37 AM
If I were you, I wouldn't worry.

The study that Dr. Sprott cites to support the "used-mattress-SIDS" theory ACTUALLY explicitly showed that used mattresses WITH PVC COVERS are NOT associated with ANY rise in SIDS rates.

(Case-control study of sudden infant death syndrome in Scotland, 1992-5, British Medical Journal 1997;314:1516-20... you can look it up on the BMJ website if you want.)

Which kind of shoots down most of his argument about the plastic covers being a problem. I was kinda cheesed about the guy LYING to support his argument, so I did a little research on his academic history.

It turns out that "Dr." Sprott, who is a retired chemist, NOT a medical doctor, has in the past blamed SIDS on baby hygiene products and on detergent residues in washed diapers. He was thoroughly discredited both times. (You can look this info up in the online catalogue of SIDS research at www.sidsaustralia.org.au.) Then he joined up with Barry Richardson to push the mattress theory.

Both of them were completely discredited, both by research which attempted to duplicate their results and failed, and by related research which showed that their theory was contradicted by actual analysis of SIDS rates and autopsies of SIDS victims.

That hasn't stopped them from selling their products under a windowdressing of "wanting to help prevent SIDS". Their claim that there have been no reports of a baby dying of SIDS on their mattress covers cuts no ice with me. For one, they are demonstrably playing fast and loose with the truth on their websites. So why believe them on this count? For two, where would such a "report" show up? I can say to you that no baby has ever died of SIDS while wearing my special patented green socks... and how could you prove me wrong? That data is not recorded anywhere where you could look it up.

So, if I were you I wouldn't worry about your bassinette mattress. The research that was supposed to prove that it was a problem, actually proved that it wasn't.

Best, and best wishes with the Big Event to come,