Cot death: 'back to sleep' works

Scientists continue to argue over the cause of cot death, or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), but one thing's clear the "back to sleep" campaign is really working.

Cot deaths in Britain are now below those in China and Japan since the British authorities introduced the campaign, which encourages parents to put babies on their backs to sleep.

The policy has finally been adopted in America where SIDS is the leading cause of death among infants up to one year of age, claiming up to 6,000 lives a year.

But the findings of a recent British television programme, The Cook Report, that toxic fumes from fire retardants in mattresses poisoned the babies, have been treated sceptically by scientists. They point out that several characteristics of SIDS that the infant is usually aged between two and four months, that most deaths occur in the winter, and that the parents tend to be smokers are not answered by the theory.

Nonetheless, the UK's chief medical officer Dr Kenneth Calman has set up an enquiry to look into the programme's claims, even though he described them as "limited, inadequate and flawed".