Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Carmel on the Case: Mattress Matters
When you crawl into bed at night you count on sleeping on a clean mattress, but in South Florida we could be sleeping on mattresses that are dirty and dangerous, even if they are sold as brand new. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the case.
WSVN -- BSO Fire Rescue Officer: "It's not even two minutes and the mattress is pretty much completely involved, including underneath of the mattress."
This is what can happen when an open flame comes in contact with a mattress that does not contain flame retardant materials. Because so many people died or were injured in fires like this, the federal government adopted new standards to protect us.
Gary Robinson, Mattress Manufacturer: "We need to be able to put a Bunsen burner underneath, on the side and on top of a mattress for thirty minutes and that mattress cannot catch fire."
Gary Robinson makes mattresses and says meeting those new guidelines is very expensive. For example, some parts of a mattress must now be sewn with Kevlar thread, the same material used in bullet proof vests.
Gary Robinson: "This costs about $50 a spool as opposed to $5 we used to pay for thread."
Then there's the flame retardant material: Each batch has to be tested and records kept about exactly what material is used on each mattress. Then it is sandwiched between the mattress cover and top layer to stop a fire from getting started.
Gary Robinson: "It is actually flame retardant, and when you put a flame to it, it doesn't burn."
Robinson says he is willing to follow all of the regulations regardless of the expense, but he says, manufacturers and their employees are being hurt by refurbishers, who don't follow the law and sell mattresses at a much lower price.
Gary Robinson: "These people get mattresses off the street that people have thrown away. They bring them in, they dry them out in the sun and then they just slap a new quilter cover on it with a label and call it new, and it's not, and the public is being deceived."
Ten South Florida manufacturers have signed this petition asking state and federal authorities to investigate. They even included a list of renovators they believe are breaking the law.
Carmel Cafiero: "To see what is being sold to the public, we went to one of the renovators that the manufacturers are complaining about, and we bought this mattress."
Robinson opened it up for us and found one violation of the law after another. It was a re-cover and an old, dirty mattress sold as new.
Gary Robinson: "Sometimes they are blood-stained, urine-stained. You don't know what you get."
There was no label as required by state law to show this is a used product. There was no federal label to identify the flame retardant material used, and there was no flame retardant material at all. What we found is exactly what the manufacturers are complaining about.
Gary Robinson: "Yes, because I have to compete with people who are selling this as new, and the end user, the poor public, think they are buying a new mattress, when this is what they are actually getting."
But, that may be about to change. Both state and federal authorities tell me the complaints have been taken seriously and investigations are currently open and active.
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