Respiratory toxicity of mattress emissions in mice

Arch Environ Health. 2000 Jan-Feb;55(1):38-43. doi: 10.1080/00039890009603383.


Groups of male Swiss-Webster mice breathed emissions of several brands of crib mattresses for two 1-hr periods. The authors used a computerized version of ASTM-E-981 test method to monitor respiratory frequency, pattern, and airflow velocity and to diagnose abnormalities when statistically significant changes appeared. The emissions of four mattresses caused various combinations of upper-airways irritation (i.e., sensory irritation), lower-airways irritation (pulmonary irritation), and decreases in mid-expiratory airflow velocity. At the peak effect, a traditional mattress (wire springs with fiber padding) caused sensory irritation in 57% of breaths, pulmonary irritation in 23% of breaths, and airflow decrease in 11% of breaths. All mattresses caused pulmonary irritation, as shown by 17-23% of breaths at peak. The largest airflow decrease (i.e., affecting 26% of the breaths) occurred with a polyurethane foam pad covered with vinyl. Sham exposures produced less than 6% sensory irritation, pulmonary irritation, or airflow limitation. Organic cotton padding caused very different effects, evidenced by increases in both respiratory rate and tidal volume. The authors used gas chromatography/mass spectrometry to identify respiratory irritants (e.g., styrene, isopropylbenzene, limonene) in the emissions of one of the polyurethane foam mattresses. Some mattresses emitted mixtures of volatile chemicals that had the potential to cause respiratory-tract irritation and decrease airflow velocity in mice.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis
  • Air Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Atmosphere Exposure Chambers
  • Beds / adverse effects*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Respiratory System / drug effects*


  • Air Pollutants