A majority of the crib mattresses sold in the U.S. contain chemicals of concern. That’s according to a new report by an environmental health group. The report found 72 percent of the mattress models surveyed use suspect or dangerous chemicals, including certain flame retardants, antibacterials and waterproofing additives. The chemicals of concern have been linked to health problems such as eye irritation, asthma, headaches and thyroid issues. The good news from the report by Clean and Healthy New York is a number of mattress makers have made significant strides in reducing chemicals of concern.

The report focuses on crib mattresses because infants are especially vulnerable to chemical exposure and spend up to 16 hours asleep in bed. Clean and Healthy New York surveyed 28 companies that together make 190 models of crib mattresses. 98 of the mattresses used one or more chemicals of concern including vinyl, polyurethane and other volatile organic compounds. 39 of the mattresses made some ‘green claims’ including the use of organic cotton or added plant oils but still used chemicals of concern. Another 39 mattresses did not use suspect chemicals but contained potential allergens. Eight percent of the mattresses avoided all potentially harmful chemicals and allergens. The report also found different degrees of public disclosure by companies about the chemicals used in their mattresses.

Clean and Healthy New York says a lot must be done to adopt safer chemicals and full transparency. The group recommends consumers use information in the report to find the safest mattress for their family and that policy makers act to make sure toxic chemicals are removed from everyday products. A hearing on legislation to overhaul the 35 year old Toxic Substances Control Act will be held before Congress in a few weeks. The Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 would require listing health and safety information for all chemicals as a condition for staying and remaining on the market. It would also require the EPA to identify and restrict the most toxic chemicals that persist and build up the food chain.