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Call for industry to tackle 'deathtrap' mattresses

bedfireThe country's largest bed manufacturer has hit out at what it calls 'deathtrap' mattresses that are proliferating the market and that retailers haven't realised how damaging these could be to their businesses.

'Many beds and mattresses are simply a death trap: this is an issue that the industry can not shy away from and urgent action must be taken to ensure that UK consumers are not unknowingly being put at risk,' says Steve Freeman, Silentnight Group md.

'The consumer votes with their wallets and there are manufacturers out there trying to improve the bottom line so they will cut corners. Why should people get away with not testing? It's a problem that needs to be flushed out.'

Freeman says that the non-compliant mattresses are mainly foam and spring products that can be rolled imported from the Far East and Eastern Europe and they are also devaluing consumers' view of what a quality mattress should be.

He also says retailers have failed to appreciate the damage selling such products could do to their reputations.

'The retailer doesn't perceive how important it is to their business. They are liable for what they sell. God forbid there should be a fatality, one death is too many, directly linked to a mattress. It could be very detrimental to the whole industry. We can't afford that to happen. We all saw the impact that the horse meat scandal had on the frozen food ready meal market with the negative impact and bad publicity that it had on the named retailers involved in selling these items. Clearly we do not want the same to happen within our industry, but unless we take action now – going into Christmas especially – this is exactly the situation we could find ourselves in.'

Silentnight Group has performed 977 flammability tests on raw materials and 2,778 tests on finished products this year.

To highlight the problem it has released a video comparing the difference in a controlled burn test of a compliant Silentnight mattress to that of a non-compliant imported mattress bought online from a UK retailer. Whereas the compliant Silentnight mattress fails to ignite, the non-compliant mattress sets alight and within three minutes is filling the room with deadly toxic fumes. After six minutes the room is completely ablaze: far quicker than the average time for firefighters take to reach a fire of nine minutes. The video can be seen here.

According to statistics from the Department of Communities and Local Government, fires in England and Wales which started in bedrooms accounted for nearly one in ten 8.8% (3,315) of the 37,601 total accidental fires in dwellings, but they claim a much a higher proportion of casualties.

There were 37,601 accidental dwelling fires in 2011/12, causing 244 deaths in total, but bedroom fires accounted for 28.7% (70) of these deaths, with only fires started in living rooms causing more fatalities. Bedroom fires caused 1,162 out of total 7,729 non-fatal injuries, more than fires started in any other room.

For all types of fires, 13 out of 287 deaths and 228 out of 8,926 injuries were caused by beds or mattresses. Where beds and mattresses were 'mainly responsible', they accounted for 2.2% of fires in 2010/11 (the latest statistics available) but 13.7% of deaths.

Freeman added that overseas manufacturers also needed to reassure consumers that their products complied with the regulations, as long as the message was consistent with the NBF's new code of conduct.