Friday, June 21, 2013

Sleep Well, Sleep Safe

By Joey Shea, Public Health Writing Intern for Toxic Free NC

Did you know that some children’s nap mats contain harmful chemicals?  New studies show that chemicals meant to keep foam mats from catching fire may be harmful to children’s health.  These chemicals have been linked to obesity, hormone disruption, infertility, and even cancer (1).

Photo by Michael LoRusso via Flickr
Flame retardant chemicals get into the air and can be inhaled by young children sleeping on the mats. And, even though these chemicals are used to lower the risk of fires, a recent study found that treating foam mats with these chemicals does not increase fire safety(2).  So, not only are these chemicals harmful for kids, they don’t even do their job!

The studies that found flame retardant chemicals in nap mats have been done on products from major retailers like Target, Wal-Mart, and Babies ‘R Us.  Safer options for mats include cotton or wool mats instead of foam.  Also, be sure to wash your hands and your child’s hands often. Hand-washing is of course the best way to get rid of germs, and will also help lower your child’s contact with harmful chemicals.

This story from The San Francisco Chronicle has a list of mats with the harmful chemicals mentioned, so you can check if the nap mat you own or the ones at your day care center are on that list.

Are you concerned about how often we hear about toxic chemicals in kids’ products? There are several legislative initiatives in North Carolina and the US Congress aimed at getting the worst toxic hazards out of kids’ products. Check out to learn more!

Joey Shea is a volunteer intern at Toxic Free NC, and is very excited to be working with a group so dedicated to the health of the planet and its communities.

Did you find this article helpful? Approximately once a month, Toxic Free NC volunteers or staff write a newsletter-ready article, focusing on children's environmental health, that we send to child care centers across North Carolina.
These articles contain helpful tips on ways child care centers, staff, and the children's parents can reduce kids' exposures to toxic chemicals and pesticides...we also think they're helpful for use in your own home, too!  We hope you find the following article regarding concerns about chemicals in popular nap mats useful, and feel free to share.

If you would like any of the past articles, please email Lynne Walter for copies or to be added to our Child Care News list.  Examples include:
  • Having Fun in the Sun: Avoiding Sunburn, Skin Cancer, and Toxic Chemicals, too
  • Insect Repellent and Kid Safety
  • Get Pesticides Out of Your Kids' Classrooms: It's Easier than You Think!
  • Mosquito Management in Child Care

(1) "Toxic Nap Mats Draw Suit in Oakland." San Francisco Chronicle
(2) "Naptime Nightmares? Toxic Flame Retardants Found in Day Care Nap Mats." Center for Environmental Health

Text Copyright 2013 by Toxic Free NC.  NC Child Care centers have permission to use text for educational purposes with their parents and staff, provided full credit is given to Toxic Free NC


  1. This is very alarming. We surely don't want our kids to be exposed with such hormone-disrupting chemicals which can probably hinder their development. The authorities should do something to regulate the selling of these products. :)

  2. Thank you for your post, and you are right, Rachel--it is alarming! This is one of the reasons why we need comprehensive toxics reform!

  3. Concrete Foam has been used as a fire-extinguishing medium for flammable and combustible liquids. Unlike other extinguishing agents - water, dry chemical, CO2, etc., a stable aqueous foam can extinguish a flammable or combustible liquid fire by the combined mechanisms of cooling, separating the flame/ignition source from the product surface, suppressing vapors and smothering.

  4. Such a good post. IT helps to our children regarding concern to the harmful chemicals.