(Health Secrets) One of the biggest chemical dangers to your children is the presence of fire retardant chemicals in children’s sleepwear. In 1971, the Consumer Product Safety Commission required that children’s sleepwear self-extinguish when exposed to flames. From then until 1977, baby clothes were doused in Tris, a chemical that was found to be carcinogenic and is now banned.
But are the replacement chemicals currently used any less dangerous than Tris? Current laws allow these choices in your children’s sleepwear:
- Nylon or acetate treated with antimony or polybrominated diphenyl ethers(PBDEs). By law these chemicals MUST remain in clothing after 50 washings and they are known to be absorbed through baby’s skin.
- Polyester with the flame retardant chemicals built right into the fiber. Again, these cannot be washed out. The manufacturers’ claim these treated polymer’s are stable, but levels of these chemicals are much higher in the bodies of children in the U.S. because other countries don’t require fire retardants.
Why are fire retardant chemicals a problem?
Chemicals are absorbed through the skin just as surely as if they were swallowed. The Environmental Working Group studied 20 families and found that ALL the toddlers and preschoolers in the study had a level of chemical fire retardants in their blood that was an average of three times higher than the levels found in their mothers’.
Chemicals used to create flame retardant clothing have been shown in studies to cause brain and nerve damage in animals.
These chemicals are suspected of causing brain damage, hyperactivity, hormone disruption and damage to the reproductive organs of human children, yet our government mandates their use in everything from clothing and mattresses to your TV remote control.
U.S. children have much greater levels of these chemicals in their bodies than do children in other countries where these chemicals are not regularly used. The U.S.’s stringent fire safety standards may protect a few children from potential fires but they guarantee chemical toxicity to all our children.
“This is concentrating in human beings, just like PCBs,” said Maine state toxicologist Deborah Rice, a former EPA scientist who studied PCBs in the 1970’s, before they were banned. She compared the horrendous effects from the use of flame retardant chemicals to those from PCBs.
Although this article is specific to clothing, these same toxins are in almost all household fabrics and foams such as chairs, mattresses (including your baby’s crib mattress) and car seats. Clothing is only one way through which your baby or young child is literally being poisoned.
More to think about when shopping for your kids
Cotton is the most sprayed crop in the U.S. Non-organic cotton clothing, even if not treated with any flame retardant, is full of pesticides. It is also likely to be genetically modified to withstand the pesticide RoundUP. If you cannot purchase organic cotton, wash new items several times before putting them on your baby or young child.
Much of the clothing sold for babies and children is treated with sizing made with formaldehyde to keep it free of wrinkles. At Philadelphia University, formerly Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science, engineers, chemists and technicians have formed a new Institute for Textile and Apparel Product Safety. So far they’ve analyzed children’s clothing for formaldehyde, and found levels that would violate standards in Japan. Unfortunately there are no standards for the use of sizing containing formaldehyde in the U.S.
Make an informed choice. When possible, purchase clothing made of organic cotton or natural wool.
Untreated cotton that fits very snugly is an excellent flame retardant because it fits tightly, eliminating air spaces that could induce flammability. Pure natural wool is naturally flame retardant.
Include mattresses and bed linens in this quest. Every little step you can take to lessen your child’s toxin load is another step to better health for that child throughout his/her lifetime.
For more information: