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Two New Research Studies Confirm Toxic Gas Theory

4 June 2008

Two New Research Studies Confirm Toxic Gas Theory For Cot Death

Two new research studies confirm the toxic gas theory for the cause of cot death, says cot death prevention expert Dr Jim Sprott.

1. Joint New Zealand and German research published in the June 2008 issue of Pediatrics (1) reported that 15.6% of cot death babies in the New Zealand Cot Death Study (1987-1990) and 28.1% of cot death babies in a German case-control study were found with their heads covered. The researchers noted that the infants whose heads were covered were often very sweaty.

2. British research published in Lancet on 31 May 2008 (2) found that bacterial infection was present in nearly half of all babies who died of sudden and unexplained death at a London hospital between 1996 and 2005. Using autopsy samples from 470 babies who died suddenly and unexpectedly, the researchers reported harmful bacteria in 181 of the 365 babies whose deaths were unexplained.

"Many bacterial infections result in increased body heat in a baby; and so does head covering during sleep," stated Dr Sprott. "It is well known that the major part of heat dissipation by babies occurs through their heads."

Overheating has long been identified as a cot death risk factor.

"Both of the new research findings confirm the toxic gas theory for cot death," stated Dr Sprott. "Both studies demonstrate a mechanism of overheating in cot death babies which would have resulted in increased temperature in the baby's sleeping environment. If bedding in a baby's cot is capable of the toxic gas generation which is the cause of cot death, a rise in temperature of (say) three degrees Celsius in the cot can result in a tenfold increase in the rate of gas generation."

The risk of cot death death posed by overheating is eliminated by preventing exposure of the baby to the toxic gases in the first place, stated Dr Sprott. "That is achieved by wrapping the baby's mattress in accordance with a strictly specified protocol, and using specified bedding on top of the wrapped mattress."

Since 1995 a mattress-wrapping protocol for cot death prevention has been publicised nationwide in New Zealand. On the basis of three studies into the incidence of mattress-wrapping in New Zealand (3), it is calculated that at least 170,000 New Zealand babies have slept on "wrapped mattresses".

There has been no reported cot death among those babies.

"If a baby is sleeping on a mattress wrapped in accordance with the cot death prevention protocol, overheating cannot pose cot death risk to the baby," stated Dr Sprott.

1. Mitchell et al, Head Covering and the Risk for SIDS: Findings From the New Zealand and German SIDS Case-Control Studies, Pediatrics 2008; 121: e1478-e1483.
2. Weber et al, Infection and sudden unexpected death in infancy: a systematic retrospective case review", Lancet 2008; 371: 1848-1853.
3. NZ Med J 2000; 113: 8-10; NZ Med J 2000; 113: 326-327; Eur J Pediatrics 2008; 167(2): 251-252 (Short Report).


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