Thursday, May 21, 1998 Published at 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Health: Latest News
PVC mattresses 'not responsible' for cot death
Scientists say PVC mattresses are not to blame for cot death
Research by the Government-appointed Expert Group On Cot Death Theories concludes there is no evidence that fire-proofing chemicals found in PVC mattresses produce toxic fumes which can be fatal in babies.
In response, the Chief Medical Officer Sir Kenneth Calman set up the group of 12 experts, led by Lady Limerick.
The programme claimed the gas was responsible for 400 cot deaths in the UK a year.
Parents were advised to use mattresses free of antimony or phosphorus or, failing that, to wrap the mattress in clear polythene.
The programme sparked off a heated debate. Sir Kenneth described the findings as "limited, adequate and flawed."
'Parents can be reassured'
The government research over the past 3½ years is estimated to have cost the Department of Health around £500,000.
Group chairman Lady Limerick said: "Our main conclusion is that there is no evidence to suggest that antimony or phosphorus containing compounds used as fire retardants in PVC and other cot mattress materials are a cause of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
"Parents can be reassured that the toxic gas hypothesis and the claims put forward on the Cook Report do not stand up to scientific scrutiny. We have been thorough in our research and have found no link between cot deaths and chemicals added to PVC cot mattresses."
Sir Kenneth dismissed claims that the research was a waste of money and said he believed the study was worthwhile.
He said: "The issue is that here was an important potential problem and we believed we must do everything we could to make sure there was nothing we could do to prevent it.
"I think any work which could save the lives of children in a group of diseases we do not know much about must be worth doing."
The conclusions of the expert group included six key messages to parents.
The advice is contained in the leaflet Reduce the Risks of Cot Deaths and includes: