Original article from 2006 (approximately).  Updated on 3/8/2008 (see last section)

I have come across two seemingly unrelated hypotheses as to
factors which increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).  It is conceivable, however, that there is a
relationship, which I will present at the end the respective descriptions.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is defined as an unexplained infant
death, after which thorough autopsy and examination of the death scene
and circumstances at the time of death reveal no identifiable cause.

Many theories have been propounded, including links to vaccinations,
febrile illnesses, and prone sleeping. The elimination of prone sleeping
does, indeed, appear to cut down on the incidence of SIDS.

The August-September 2000 issue of the Townsend
Letter for Doctors and Patients
reported on a hypothesis propounded
by Lendon Smith M.D. and Joseph
Hattersly
(and detailed in their book entitled The Infant Survival
Guide: Protecting Your Baby from the Dangers of Crib Death, Vaccine and
Other Environmental Hazards
(Smart
Publications
, tel. 800 976-2783). While I cannot attest to the correctness
of the hypothesis, it does seem supported by research and does seem plausible.

In
brief, the hypothesis details the rise in SIDS with the advent of
certain flame-retardants used in infant mattress manufacture. Certain
fungi (including ordinarily harmless and common household molds) can
metabolize these chemicals (including heavy metals like phosphorus,
arsenic, and antimony and also certain plastic softeners) and emit
neurotoxic gases. These gases cause respiratory arrest. The gases are
heavier than air and tend to concentrate near the surface of the
mattress.

Vaccinations may play are role by producing fever. The increased body
heat can then cause the molds and fungi to emit higher quantities of the
gases. In addition, respiration increases during fever.

It has been found, in Taiwan from 1998 to 1992, that babies born 2nd
to 4th were 70% more likely to die of SIDS than the first; risk for 5th
or later babies was up 130%. (Knobel, et. al., Risk Factors of sudden
infant death in Chinese (Taiwan) babies. American Journal of Epidemiology
1996 (Dec. 1); 144, 11:1070-1079). This would be easily explained given
the tendency to reuse the same mattresses for subsequent children.

Sleeping face down places the nose and mouth closer to the surface of
the mattress. Sleeping face up moves the mouth and nose farther from the
gases. Elevating the head of the bed cause the gases to flow away from
the baby’s head, hence the effectiveness of these measures.

According the the authors, the risk is completely eliminated by wrapping
the top and sides of the mattress with a heavy guage (at least 125 micron),
clear (not colored) polythene (same as polyethylene) sheeting. Do not
use PVC (polyvinyl chloride). Place the sheeting on top of the mattress
and down the ends and sides, and secure it firmly on the underside of
the mattress with strong adhesive tape. The sheeting should not be airtight
on the bottom of the mattress.

Mattresses without toxic retardants are available through BabeSafe.
A United States distributor is Dr.
David D. Davis
, phone and fax: 970-9265316.

IODINE – SELENIUM HYPOTHESIS: 

Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS) is the leading cause of
neonatal death in the developed world. 
SIDS ranks as the greatest cause in the post-neonatal period.  Both conditions have numerous risk factors in
common.  

The author, Harold Foster Ph.D., studied the geographic distribution of both
conditions, and found a very strong overlap with the incidence of epidemic
goiter (iodine deficiency) prior to the institution of iodine prophylaxis
(achieved primarily through supplementation of the food supply).  The author notes that in the United States,
“SIDS is twice as common in those states that previously suffered heavily from
goiter (enlarged thyroid) than in those that did not.”  In addition, “SIDS victims exhibit thyroid
gland abnormalities, T4 (thyroid hormone) deficiencies and subtle developmental
deficits which are consistent with a role for iodine inadequacy in this
syndrome.”  These problems are worsened
by selenium deficiency (and possibly also by selenium excess). 

Reference:  Foster,
Harold Ph.D., The Iodine-Selenium Connection in Respiratory Distress and Sudden
Infant Death Syndromes Townsend Letter
for Doctors
[available at http://www.arxc.com/townsend/sids.htm].

 

When I first looked at the first article regarding toxins in mattresses, I was not aware of the particular significance (for thyroid function) of brominated compounds in mattress manufacture.  If it is true that children are exposed to brominated chemicals (in mattresses or elsewhere), this could exacerbate any already existing  thyroid problems (from iodine deficiency).  Other chemicals in the environment (perchlorate, for example, and the goitrogens from excess use of soy products or cruciferous vegetables) could add to the problems.