A family in Prescott Valley says they had to throw away many belongings after they found fiberglass in their mattress

PRESCOTT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- It was the first night Luken and Jackson Richie got to sleep in their new beds, and for the three and five-year-old brothers, it was a big deal.

"They got their new jammies, their best blankets, their best stuffed animals, we made their bed and took their pictures," their mom, Amanda Richie, recalled.

Amanda and Josh Richie, of Prescott, said goodnight to their boys and turned off the lights. Within 15 minutes, the children were out of their new beds, and complaining about skin irritation.

"They came out and they’re like, "Mama, we’re itchy! We’re itchy!" Richie said.

Luken, the 3-year-old, has severe respiratory issues and allergies, so there was no time to waste.

"The one thing that’s different is the mattress, so we took them out really fast," Amanda said.

She couldn't see what was causing the problem, until she shined a flashlight on the new mattresses.

"They literally lit up," she said. "They were like disco balls, just knives of glass all over."

Amanda went back inside the house and quickly realized there was fiberglass everywhere. Microscopic strands of plastic and glass fibers had been unleashed in her home when she washed the removable mattress covers.

"It had a little white pull tag to make it easier to open," she said. "There’s no mother on earth that wouldn’t take a zippered white cover and wash it."

From painting walls to professional HVAC cleaning, the Richies spent more than a week deep cleaning every inch of their home while their boys stayed with family members. 

"We started going item through item, and the further you went into it, you realized the extent of it," Josh said.

"You'd feel it," Amanda added. "It would start stabbing your face, little tiny itchy dots. You’d feel it. You'd cough. You'd sneeze."

The young family had to get rid of so much. The clothes, the washer and dryer, furniture, and precious memories were all hauled away by the truckload.

"I could picture my kids as babies with those toys and we’re just throwing them in the dumpster," Josh said.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, fiberglass is a common component in a variety of products and is often used to add strength and fire-resistance.

"CPSC has mandatory requirements for mattresses and mattress pads," Patty Davis, a spokesperson for the agency said in an email. "The regulations are performance standards, not design standards, so they do not specify the use of specific materials or individual components."

On the agency's website, SaferProducts.gov, there are a slew of complaints similar to the Richie family’s experience. Lloyd Cueto, an attorney who represents a family from the St. Louis, Missouri area, filed a class action lawsuit against mattress manufacturer Zinus, alleging design defects and inadequate warning labels.

Amanda Chandler and Robert Durham claim a Zinus mattress "released extremely large amounts of dangerous glass fibers which then caused serious and potentially life-threatening injuries to their family of five."

"They really are just horror stories," Cueto told 3 On Your Side.

"The very existence of a zipper invites you to unzip it," he said. "It’s kind of pandora’s box. Once it’s open, there’s no putting it back together."

When asked about the lawsuit and the zipper on the product, a spokesperson for Zinus said the company values its customers and takes feedback seriously. The company also pointed 3 On Your Side to its website, which says "the mattress cover isn’t washable…so please always leave the cover on."

In court documents, Zinus argues fiberglass is “a useful and safe fire-retardant material.”

The class action lawsuit is set to go trial next year. Since Cueto filed it in March 2020, he says his office has been flooded hundreds of calls from dozens of states regarding fiberglass contamination, either from removable mattress covers or covers that don’t properly contain the fibers.

"It's industry-wide," Cueto said. "We’re seeing it from over half a dozen different manufacturers."

Cueto anticipates filing additional lawsuits, but did not say against which mattress manufacturers.

The CPSC says it is important for consumers to follow manufacturers' instructions for washing and drying any product, including mattress pads. Amanda bought her mattresses second-hand and the labels had been removed, so she doesn’t know who made them or if the manufacturer put an warnings in writing. Still, she wants answers.

"If it is so dangerous, why is it removable?" she asked.

Amanda also wants to see manufacturing changes to save others from this nightmare that’s costing her family tens of thousands of dollars and a little boy’s priceless security blanket.

"I knew he was going to put his face on it, so I had to let it go, and when I did, I was literally on my hands and knees in my front yard crying putting it in a bag," Amanda said. "It was just overwhelming. It wasn’t the blanket. It was just not being able to keep your family safe."

 

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