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A mattress is a bed cushion on which a person sleeps, although it may be temporary, portable, or utilized on the floor versus an actual bed. There are a variety of fillers used to create cushion, vary comfort level, permanence, and portability, including inner spring cores, latex, foam, water, air, or natural fiber. Straw and feathers were used prior to modern advancements in manufacturing and construction of mattresses using a combination of natural and synthetic materials. Generally ranging from six to 18 inches in height, mattresses are made to fit single beds for one person and full, queen, and king beds for two or more people. Special sizes and versions may be created for infant beds, adjustable beds such as those used within hospitals and for home healthcare, and portable cots. Most mattresses last between seven and ten years before replacement is necessary, although modern foam and latex versions may last up to 20 years.

$4.5 billion in mattress production occurs in the U.S. each year. Other demographic information regarding mattress users has not been found.

Mattress Defects

Perhaps the most significant defect of mattresses is the natural tendency of the materials used in mattress construction to burn. Recent laws have been enacted and upgraded to ensure mattresses manufactured and/or sold in the U.S. meet stringent flammability standards to prevent additional injuries and death. Beyond fire, improper mattress fit can cause suffocation due to entrapment, particularly in the case of infants, children, and people with mobility issues. Babies placed on air mattresses also frequently suffocate.

Mattress Recalls

Mattresses are now frequently recalled due to the stringency of federal regulations governing mattress product safety. In addition, the Consumer Product Safety Commission maintains a strictly watchful eye over mattress manufacturing. Some examples of general mattress failures and resulting recalls are:

  • In January 2010, the Consumer Product Safety Commission required recall of 750 Mattress World mattress sets due to the sets’ failure to meet federal flammability standards.
  • In 2008, Serta International voluntarily recalled 6,500 mattress sets due to their failure to meet federal flammability standards.
  • In 2009, Ikea 500 Karlstad mattress sets were recalled due to noncompliance with federal flammability standards.

Some examples of mattresses recalled in cooperation with the Consumer Product Safety Commission due to documented injury, household property damage, and death through standard use by consumers are:

  • In 1999, Cosco, Inc recalled 62,000 crib mattresses after 12 babies were entrapped and compressed by the mattresses. One 11-month-old infant died due to entrapment.
  • In June 2008, Simmons Kids recalled 20,000 crib mattresses after a 6-month-old became entrapped by the mattress due to defective design leading to improper fit of the mattress to the crib. The 6-month-old survived.
  • In 2007 the CPSC issued a warning to parents against placement of infants on air mattresses. Between 2002 and 2007, 16 infant deaths occurred due to suffocation while sleeping on air mattresses.


Despite vastly improved federal mattress flammability standards in recent years, 150 to 200 people still die each year due to small, open flame mattress and bedding fires. Between 1999 and 2003, 76,400 home fires were started on or around mattresses. As a result of those fires, 1,890 deaths, 8,820 injuries, and $1.603 billion in property damage resulted. Seventy four percent of these mattress fires were caused by ignition from smoking materials such as cigarettes.