Toxic Gases Causing Crib Death (SIDS)? Learn How to Protect Your Baby

By Jane Sheppard

Has the cause of crib death (SIDS – Sudden Infant Death Syndrom) been found? Dr. Jim Sprott, OBE – a New Zealand scientist and chemist, states with certainty that crib death is caused by toxic nerve gases, which can be generated from a baby’s mattress. Chemical compounds containing phosphorus, arsenic and antimony have been added to mattresses as fire retardants and for other purposes since the early 1950’s. A fungus that commonly grows in bedding can interact with these chemicals to create poisonous gases. These dangerous gases can poison a baby to death, without waking the sleeping baby and without any struggle by the baby. A normal autopsy would not reveal any sign that the baby was poisoned. This logical explanation of crib death is backed by scientific research and six years of practical proof, especially in New Zealand. In spite of denial and opposition from orthodox SIDS organizations, no research has convincingly disproved this gaseous poisoning explanation for crib death.

The solution is to prevent exposure of babies to the gases by wrapping mattresses in a cover made from high-grade polyethylene and ensuring that bedding used on top of a wrapped mattress does not contain any phosphorus, arsenic or antimony. Dr. Sprott specifies a fleecy, pure cotton (flannelette) underblanket, with only cotton or poly-cotton sheets and woolen or cotton blankets over the baby. No other bedding should be used in the baby’s crib. In particular, don’t use any synthetic sheets or blankets, nor a duvet, sleeping bag, or sheepskin.

A 100% successful crib death prevention campaign has been going on in New Zealand for the past six years. During this time, there has not been a single SIDS death reported among the over 100,000 New Zealand babies who have slept on mattresses wrapped in a specially formulated polyethylene cover (BabeSafe®). Prior to the commencement of mattress-wrapping, New Zealand had the highest crib death rate in the world (2.1 deaths per 1000 live births). Following the adoption of mattress-wrapping by many parents in New Zealand, the New Zealand crib death rate has fallen by over 48%, and the Caucasian (non-Maori) crib death rate has fallen by about 60%. The New Zealand Ministry of Health has stated that there has been no reported crib death among those babies who have slept on correctly wrapped mattresses.

So why isn’t this profound and critically important information making the headlines of major newspapers or all over the evening news? Why aren’t crib death researchers in the United States telling parents to wrap babies’ mattresses? Why are the manufacturers still adding fire retardants and other chemicals to mattresses?

There are various reasons, but one important reason is that mattress manufacturers are allowed to use phosphorus, arsenic and antimony through government regulations. Admitting that these chemicals are causing deaths would mean admitting to major liability. Furthermore, crib death research has been a significant source of funding for medical researchers in the U.S. Unfortunately, the ongoing complex and expensive research that leads to the discovery of “risk factors” for a so-called “syndrome” has pushed aside the simple and inexpensive solution of mattress-wrapping; a solution that can do no harm.

The Cot Death Cover-Up? (Penguin books, NZ, 1996), by Dr. Jim Sprott, reveals the amazing story of denial on the part of crib death researchers and the medical community, and the failure of these powerful entities to accept such a simple explanation. Dr. Sprott first suggested a toxic gas theory for crib death in 1986, and in 1989 Barry Richardson of Britain, acting independently, publicized outstanding research proving the finding. However, researchers and organizations responsible for advising parents have vigorously denied the toxic gas explanation for crib death. In the intervening period, many thousands of babies have died of crib death. But the New Zealand experience shows that those deaths were avoidable, easily and cheaply – and that raises another prospect of legal liability for babies’ deaths.

Eight babies continue to die every night in the United States from crib death. Even though the SIDS research organizations consider the toxic gas theory “unproven”, I strongly believe that parents have a right to the information about toxic gases so they can decide for themselves whether to make use of an inexpensive, easy, common sense solution that can certainly do no harm and may prevent a devastating tragedy.

The main orthodox crib death prevention recommendation is to put babies to sleep on their backs. We know that babies do still die when sleeping on their backs (although face-up sleeping does reduce the risk). However, no babies have died sleeping on a properly wrapped mattress. This is crucial information for parents, regardless of whether or not the toxic gas explanation has been 100% “scientifically proven”. Therefore, I feel compelled to make this information – and the mattress covers – available through my newsletter and website. Parents can then decide for themselves whether they want to wait for the SIDS research organizations or the government to endorse mattress-wrapping or to “play it safe” as many parents have done in New Zealand. An inexpensive, non-toxic protective cover can certainly do no harm.

PLEASE NOTE: Toxic gases are present in adult beds as well as babies’ cribs. Due to adult physiology, adults and older children are not in danger (except, perhaps long-term toxicity that’s not been studied). But many babies sleep with their parents on adult-sized mattresses. Unfortunately, only bassinette, crib-sized and co-sleeper mattress covers are available at this time. So you need to know that your baby is not protected in your bed if your mattress is not wrapped correctly. The manufacturer of the mattress covers is looking into the prospect of making adult sized mattress covers, but in the meantime is recommending against babies sleeping in adult beds.

This recommendation is disturbing to me since I am an avid supporter of attachment parenting and “the family bed”. But crib death does happen in adult beds due to the presence of toxic gases and the only way your baby would be protected from these gases is if your mattress is properly wrapped. Face-up sleeping helps reduce the risk of exposure to the toxic gases (a baby does not breath in as much gas if he or she is face up), but does not prevent crib death. If your baby is going to sleep in your bed, please see the following instructions for wrapping the mattress on your bed.

ALERT: It is of the utmost importance that the correct material is used. There have been two baby deaths in New Zealand because people used the wrong plastic. DO NOT USE PVC AND DO NOT USE THIN PLASTIC SHEETING! Only high-grade 125 micron, clear, colourless polyethylene sheeting will protect your baby. (125 microns equals 5 mils, the same as 5 thousandths of an inch)


The advice to wrap mattresses applies to every mattress on which a baby sleeps (except a BabeSafe® mattress) and includes: mattresses of other children; adults’ mattresses; and all mattresses made of or containing natural products such as sheepskins, goatskins, kapok, tree bark, coconut fibre, etc.The most convenient way to wrap a baby’s mattress for crib death prevention is by means of a BabeSafe® mattress cover. These covers are manufactured in six sizes and are available at babycare retail outlets throughout New Zealand and by mail order in some other countries, including the US, Canada, Australia, England and Scotland. As an alternative, parents can make mattress wraps for their own beds using the specified polythene sheeting. If this option is selected, the following instructions apply:

1. Use thick, clear (not colored) polythene sheeting. The thickness of the polythene must be at least 125 microns. DO NOT USE PVC (POLYVINYL CHLORIDE) FOR MATTRESS-WRAPPING!
2. Place the polythene over the top of the mattress and down the ends and sides, and secure it firmly on the underside of the mattress with strong adhesive tape. Dr. Sprott recommends 3M Scotch tape, super clear, 2 inches wide.
3. The polythene on the underside of the mattress should not be airtight. It must be airtight on the top and sides of the mattress. It is imperative to use the correct bedding on top of a BabeSafe® mattress, BabeSafe® mattress cover or polythene-wrapped mattress. Use a fleecy pure cotton underblanket and tuck this in securely. Then make the bed using sheets and pure woolen or pure cotton overblankets. DO NOT use any type of moisture-resistant mattress protector, sheepskin, sheepfleece underlay, acrylic blanket, sleeping bag or duvet.


BabeSafe® mattresses, BabeSafe® mattress covers and Polythene-wrapped mattresses should be cleaned by wiping with pure soap and water. Do not use chemical bleaches or sterilants. Dr. Sprott emphasizes that the above instructions must be followed exactly, to the letter. Note that Polythene is a trade name for polyethylene. However, Dr. Sprott strongly encourages parents to use BabeSafe® crib mattress covers for babies’ cribs. He is concerned that parents might use incorrect plastic sheeting for their babies’ mattress.

Jane Sheppard is Editor and Publisher of Healthy Child E-Newsletter and Healthy Child Online, publishing information for parents about protecting the health and well-being of children. Visit for a database of articles, free e-newsletter, advice from holistic health practitioners, and parent’s forum.