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Amazon's bestselling mattress is a health hazard, lawsuit claims

One of Amazon's bestselling products is a health hazard, alleges a proposed class-action lawsuit against Zinus, the maker of a popular and inexpensive "Green Tea Mattress" sold by retailers nationwide. 

A California woman is leading the proposed class-action suit — one of multiple lawsuits being levied against the company — representing several thousand people across the country who claim to have suffered health troubles from flame-resistant fiberglass fibers released from the product. 

The suit, filed in Sacramento in July, alleges the South Korean company's mattresses have taken a toll on multiple customers. Vanessa Gutierrez told the Los Angeles Times that the Zinus mattress she bought for her daughter on Amazon for $400 wound up costing her nearly $20,000 in damages, including medical bills. 

The fiberglass exposure left scars still visible on her four-year-old daughter's chest and calves, she told the paper

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Fiberglass, a mixture of plastic and glass, can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, but the type used in flame-retardant barriers is not considered hazardous or a cause of long-term health issues, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"Most consumer complaints about fiberglass being released from mattresses that have been reviewed by staff involved the outer cover being removed or damaged. If the outer cover remains intact, then the exposure to fiberglass particles is expected to be minimal," the agency told CBS MoneyWatch in an email.

The fire-resistant material in its products is "standard in the mattress industry" and not considered hazardous by the CPSC, Zinus told CBS MoneyWatch Monday in an email. 

The Zinus queen-sized Green Tea memory foam mattress sells for about $310 on Amazon, where it has 4.4 stars out of 5 from more than 130,000 reviewers. 

Professional remediation

A less expensive option than other fire-resistant materials, fiberglass fibers were found to be "a potential risk of consumer exposure if the zipper on the outer cover is opened," according to a study by California's Department of Public Health, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in February.

"It's not hyperbole to say that this has ravaged thousands of individuals' lives from across the United States," James Radcliffe, a personal injury lawyer with Cueto Law, told the Times. 

The firm first launched the suit on behalf of an Illinois couple who allegedly had to spend months in a hotel after their home was contaminated by fiberglass released from a Zinus mattress.

Amanda Chandler and Robert Durham experienced tens of thousands of dollars in property damage and spent more than $20,000 for professional remediation services after buying a Zinus memory foam mattress from Walmart for their child in the summer of 2019, according to their 2020 suit.

Warning to customers 

The mattresses come with instructions warning customers not to remove the outer mattress cover to protect the fire barrier inside, Zinus added in its response to CBS MoneyWatch. 

Some reviewers on Amazon's website warned other customers not to unzip the outer mattress cover. One purchaser wrote that they did so and claimed it "unleashed [an] invisible fiberglass storm into our house."

 "Customer safety is a top priority at Amazon, and we are thoroughly investigating this case," emailed a spokesperson for Amazon, which currently lists the "bed-in-a-box" mattress as the #1 bestseller in its category.

Walmart noted that it and other retailers were initially named in the suit filed in March of 2020, but the complaint was amended that June to dismiss claims against it and other retailers.

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