THE CAUSE OF COT DEATH (SIDS) AND HOW TO PREVENT IT
Some parents may be unaware of a 100% successful cot death
prevention campaign which a New Zealand scientist, Dr Jim Sprott
OBE,has been running in New Zealand for thirteen 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
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
Mattress-wrapping has been publicised nationwide in New Zealand since 1995, and during that time an estimated 170,000 babies have slept on wrapped 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 68% - and there has been no reported cot death among those babies who have slept on correctly wrapped mattresses. Among the ethnic group most likely to wrap babies' mattresses (NZ Europeans) the cot death rate has fallen by around 85%.
These major reductions in New Zealand cot death rates 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 prevention 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
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 highly qualified
environmental scientist has pointed out in the New Zealand
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: 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
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 many 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
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 thirteen-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
www.cotlife2000.co.nz. You can write to Dr Sprott at 10 Combes
Road, Remuera, Auckland 1050, New Zealand. His phone/fax number
Dr Jim Sprott is a New Zealand scientist. He has been publicising mattress-wrapping for cot death (SIDS) prevention since 1995. Readers are welcome to contact him for information.