By Janeen Ellsworth
Flame retardant chemicals are dangerous, but they’re all over kids’ PJs. Here’s everything you need to know about avoiding them, plus a simple tutorial for DIY-ing a kids’ bathrobe!
They’re implicated in causing other health and developmental problems, too, like motor skill deficiencies, obesity, poor attention span and lower IQ in children, according to the Environmental Working Group and the Green Science Policy Institute.
And, they’re endocrine, or hormone, disruptors that cause potential sex organ irregularities. The National Institute of Health says, “Research shows that endocrine disruptors may pose the greatest risk during prenatal and early postnatal development when organ and neural systems are forming.”
And yet, they’re found in our couch cushions, foam insulation, and, of course, kids’ PJs. Specifically, they’re added to sleepwear for babies size 9 months all the way up to kids’ size 14. In other words, “…when organ and neural systems are forming.”
Unless you stick to the snug-fitting jammie sets, you’re left with no choice but tucking your kids into bed wearing the flame resistant, health-risk-covered kind. I dunno about you, but I haven’t been able to find a nightgown, robe, or set of baggy fleece jammies available for kids in this country that’s free of the hazardous stuff.
That’s because, in 2007, certain unnamed chemical companies got together and secretly formed a fake group, called Citizens for Fire Safety, to lobby for the flame retardants they, themselves, were manufacturing. They proclaimed that these chemicals, made to slow the effects of a flame, ought to be added to all kinds of household products. Because, allegedly, too many people were being harmed by burns from lit cigarettes and unattended candles that made homes--and babies!—catch fire.
They pled their case well, ultimately convincing the government to certify that, from then on, all kinds of products should come coated in flame retardants. For the safety of our children!
But those charlatans were outed in 2012, thanks to clever sleuthing by some awesome journalists. It’s a fascinating story everyone should read. Check it out for yourself in depth here or here.
Problem is, flame retardants are still found everywhere. Exhibit A, if you bought a couch during the time frame that this law was in effect, in the 2007-12 era, and it was manufactured in the US, and you still own that couch, I’m sorry to inform you, but you’re still likely breathing in noxious fumes every time you cozy up after a long day.
(And we wonder why we struggle with obesity and attention disorders in this country…)
Despite all this, flame resistant fabrics are still required for children’s loose-fitting sleepwear, according to US law! Read it here for yourself!
Unless, again, you stick with the snug-fitting shirt-and-pants sets that explicitly state they are not doused in chemicals. In other words, if an article of kids’ nightwear doesn’t come with a big yellow warning tag on announcing it specifically does not have flame retardant on it, then you should assume it’s been chemically treated.
I don’t want flame resistant chemicals anywhere in my home or on my kids’ clothing (especially when they go through bouts of wearing their PJs all day, every day). And since I don’t leave lit candles unattended, and I quit smoking in 1998, I’m fairly confident neither of my babies are going to suddenly ignite, so we get the snug-fitting, chem-free kind of PJs and life is perfectly pleasant that way.
But this year at Christmastime, all I kept hearing from my kids was, “I want a robe!” and “Mommy, why can’t we ever get a robe?!”
Both of them have heard this same old song and dance about dangerous chemicals on certain kinds of PJs so many times before that even I was sick of hearing myself talk about it.
So I set about figuring out how I could get them bathrobes that weren’t smothered in harmful chemicals. I know a couple of professional seamstresses I could have hired to do the job, but it was about December 20th when I decided to undertake this mission—a bit too close to The Big Day to outsource the job.
I thought and thought about it, ultimately deciding that a large-sized adult shirt ought to do the trick, if I altered it just right. *My sewing chops aren’t up to the task of creating clothing from scratch, and my brain doesn’t process geometry, so I can’t follow sewing patters. Altering would be my only trick.
But I didn’t want to put a ton of effort into this project in case: A) they grow out of these robes in three months (likely), or B) they never actually wear them, even though right now they think they really want to (also likely).
So, one day last month, I happened to wander into a K-Mart that was going out of business and stumbled upon my answer. At the bargain-basement price of six bucks a pop, I got each of my kids a grown man’s hoody sweatshirt, free of harmful chemicals, and got to work with my scissors and thread!
Want to do the same? It’s so easy I was done in like 45 minutes, no joke. Here’s the tutorial at Part 2 of this two-part series. Share it widely! And always remember, there’s more than one way to do things, even when lobbyists pressure the government into passing laws that don’t actually protect us.
*I offer my utmost respect and warmest sympathies to anyone out there who has been harmed by a house fire. This post is not meant to make light of the very real, very serious injuries and traumatic deaths that are caused by burns each year. For information on recovering and treating burns, or for help on where to find a support group, please visit The Mayo Clinic online.
I'm Janeen; writer, mother, wife, and full-time, radical Reductionist. I share stupid-easy tips on how to save money while reducing your impact on the environment, & I'm committed to helping others live a life of simple sustainability.
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