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Area 6 : News & Views


The longest journey starts with a single step .....................................................ancient Chinese proverb


Many British parents will be unaware of a 100% successful cot
death prevention campaign which a New Zealand scientist, Dr Jim
Sprott, has been running in New Zealand for over five years.

Dr Sprott states with certainty that the cause of cot death has
been discovered: it is caused by very toxic nerve gases which can
be generated from mattresses and certain other bedding used in
babies' cots.

The solution is to prevent exposure of babies to the gases, by
wrapping mattresses in accordance with a specified protocol and
ensuring that bedding used on top of a wrapped mattresses does not
contain any phosphorus, arsenic or antimony (the chemicals which -
when combined with fungal growth - can result in the gas generation

And the method works. Since late 1994 mattress-wrapping has been
publicised nationwide in New Zealand, and many tens of thousands of
parents have wrapped their babies' mattresses. Prior to the
commencement of mattress-wrapping, New Zealand had the highest cot
death rate in the world (2.1 deaths per 1000 live births).
Following the adoption of mattress-wrapping the New Zealand cot
death rate has fallen by 48% - and there has been no reported cot
death among those babies who have slept on correctly wrapped

This major reduction in the New Zealand cot death rate cannot be
attributed to orthodox cot death prevention advice (e.g. face-up
sleeping). There has been no material change in that advice in New
Zealand since 1992.

So what does Dr Sprott say about orthodox cot death advice?

* Don't smoke around your baby.

Recent history refutes any suggestion that smoking causes cot
death, says Dr Sprott. Smoking was very common in Britain in
the 1930s and 1940s, but cot death was virtually non-existent.
Smoking is prevalent in present-day Russia and Japan, but the
cot death rates are low. No cause-and-effect relationship
between smoking and cot death has been established - they are
socio-economic parallels. Put another way, smoking is more
common among poorer people, and so is cot death. But it does not
follow that smoking is therefore a cot death risk factor.

* Don't bedshare with your baby if you also smoke or smoked
during pregnancy.

Misleading advice, says Dr Sprott. The risk posed by
bedsharing does not arise from smoking - it arises from the
mattress. Adults' mattresses very frequently contain the same
chemical and fungi as babies' mattresses, and therefore they
can generate the same toxic gas/es. (For physiological reasons
adults are not put at risk by this gas generation in

* Sleep your baby with feet to the foot of the cot.

According to Dr Sprott, this practice affords no protection
whatsoever against cot death. Any area on an unwrapped mattress
where a baby sleeps is a potential source of toxic gas, since
that is the area which becomes warm and moist (promoting the
fungal activity which can cause gas generation).

* Sleep your baby face up.

Face-up sleeping is a partial preventive against cot death. This
is because the gases which cause cot death are more dense than
air. They diffuse away towards the floor, and therefore a baby
sleeping face up is less likely to inhale them.

So the partial success of face-up sleeping confirms the toxic gas
theory. And so does much more research. According to Dr Sprott
(who has a PhD in chemistry and is expert in the gas generation
concerned), every step in the toxic gas theory for cot death has
been proved. A considerable amount of this research has been
written up and published in peer-reviewed medical and other
scientific journals. In fact, mattress-wrapping for cot death
prevention is supported by wider research than supported the
introduction of various items of orthodox advice (including face-up
sleeping). And contrary to claims by numerous orthodox cot death
researchers, the 1998 UK Limerick Report did not disprove the toxic
gas theory (as a New Zealand environmental scientist has pointed out
in the New Zealand Medical Journal).

So why don't orthodox cot death researchers tell parents to wrap
babies' mattresses? Dr Sprott suggests a variety of possible

* First, cot death research has been a big gravy train for
medical researchers. In Britain it continues to be so
(although not in New Zealand, where research funding has nearly
ground to a halt as people have become aware that
mattress-wrapping is easy, cheap and 100% successful in
preventing cot death).

* The toxic gas theory has been publicised since 1989 (first in
Britain), but it has been hotly denied by researchers and
organisations responsible for advising parents. In the
intervening period, many thousands of babies have died of cot
death. But the New Zealand experience shows that those deaths
were avoidable - and that raises the prospect of legal
liability for babies' deaths.

Some researchers have stated that cot death may have a number of
causes (the multifactorial theory). Not so, says Dr Sprott. At
this point he draws attention to a highly significant piece of
information about cot death, which is demonstrated by British
statistics: the cot death risk rises from the first baby in a
family to the second, and from the second baby to the third, and
so on. Babies of solo parents have a very high cot death rate.

Dr Sprott explains that the rising rate of cot death from one
sibling to the next destroys every medical and physiological theory
for the cause of cot death.

* For example, some researchers think cot death is caused by
babies re-breathing their exhaled carbon dioxide. However, all
babies exhale a similar amount of CO2, regardless of whether
they are first, second or later babies. Therefore, the rising
rate of cot death from one sibling to the next refutes the CO2

* Some researchers think cot death is related to the size of
babies' airways. However, for this theory to be valid would
require second babies' airways to be smaller than those of first
babies; and third babies' airways to be smaller than those of
second babies; and so on. Clearly, therefore, the airways theory
is wrong, because the size of babies' airways is not related to
birth order.

So what is the explanation for the rising rate of cot death from one
sibling to the next? Cot death is caused by gases generated in
mattresses - and most parents re-use mattresses from one baby to the
next. If a mattress contains any of the chemicals concerned and
fungi have become established in the mattress during previous use by
another baby, generation of toxic gas commences sooner and in
greater volume when the mattress is re-used.

This accounts for the rising rate of cot death from one sibling to
the next. It also accounts for the very high cot death rate among
babies of solo parents, who for economic reasons are more likely to
sleep their babies on previously used mattresses which they have
acquired secondhand.

It all fits from a theoretical point of view, says Dr Sprott - and
the five-year New Zealand experience provides practical proof that
mattress-wrapping prevents cot death.

Orthodox cot death researchers say that cot death rates have
fallen without the introduction of mattress-wrapping - and they
have. But Dr Sprott points out a crucial difference: Many babies
have died of cot death where parents followed orthodox cot death
prevention advice - but there has been no reported cot death on a
correctly wrapped mattress. Unlike orthodox advice,
mattress-wrapping has a 100% success record in cot death

Please note: Mattress-wrapping must be carried out in accordance
with a strict protocol.
For full information, contact Dr Sprott by e-mail.

Our thanks to Dr. Jim Sprott at Cot Life 2000 for forwarding this article with permission to include [disclaimer]

Update [November 2022] We are sad to update this page that Dr Jim Sprott (forensic scientist) OBE has passed away but we have left his article on line in case it helps anyone, anywhere, in the future.

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