Toxic Gas Hypothesis
Response from FSID to final report of the government appointed Expert Group to Investigate Cot Death Theories: Toxic Gas Hypothesis
FSID welcomes the report of the Expert Group chaired by Lady Limerick. After an exhaustive investigation of the toxic gas hypothesis lasting three and a half years, methodically examining every aspect of the claim both by reviewing existing research, as well as by commissioning new research, the Expert Group has concluded that there is no evidence to support the claim that fire retardants in PVC cot mattresses cause cot death.
Joyce Epstein, Secretary-General of the FSID, said:
"The toxic gas theory has now received the most thorough possible attention, and has been rejected as unfounded. It brings to a close a ghastly episode in public health scare-mongering prompted by The Cook Report in 1994, which broadcast its programme without responsibly substantiating the evidence.
"Thousands of parents were distressed and misled by the story, convinced that mattresses kill babies. Even now a survey shows that more parents think mattresses cause cot death than are aware, for example, that smoking in pregnancy is dangerous for babies.
"10 babies still die every week in this country from cot death. We know some of the risk factors, but we need serious research - not the TV kind - to find out the causes and prevention of cot death."
Over all conclusions of report
The overall conclusion was that there was no evidence to substantiate the toxic gas hypothesis that antimony- and phosphorus-containing compounds used as fire retardants in PVC and other cot mattress materials are a cause of SIDS. Neither was there any evidence to believe that these chemicals could pose any other health risk to infants.
Background to investigation
In 1989 Mr Barry Richardson said he had done research that showed antimony in mattresses released toxic gas which, he said, caused cot death. In 1990 the UK Department of Health and the FSID commissioned studies to investigate the toxic gas claim but neither found any evidence to support it. In 1994 the television programme, The Cook Report, broadcast unpublished research that said cot death babies had higher antimony levels in their blood and liver than babies who died of other causes, and asserted that the antimony came from cot mattresses.
Main research findings
Research commissioned by the Expert Group and others (including the FSID) found:
The original artcile can be seen at http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/fsid/limerick.htm