A debate that has bothered me for years is about to come to an end with this article. I’ve always been turned off by polyester PJs for my kids. It’s something my mom always re-enforced with using cotton at bedtime, but it’s always bothered me and now I know why. It’s not the fact that polyester PJs don’t breath well or provide the same level of softness that cotton or bamboo material does. It’s the fact that polyester sleepwear is infused with ‘natural’ flame retardants – bonded right into the fabric. So a company can state that their sleepwear doesn’t contain flame retardants (they have been banned since the late 70′s because they were found to be so carcinogenic) but since polyester is ‘naturally’ fire resistant, this labeling doesn’t need to be added to the tag.
Confused? Don’t know anything about flame retardants? They aren’t something we are not familiar with as parents today, because the year I was born (1973) the US Department of Commerce declared mandatory fire-resistance standards for kid’s sleepwear. So flame retardants were brushed onto children’s PJs, chemically treating them (without any testing) and were later found to be a mutagen and a carcinogen. How potent was this ‘coating’ of flame retardants? The National Cancer Institute testing Tris-BP showed that it was one hundred times more powerful than the carcinogens in cigarette smoke. (!!) Four years later this chemical was banned from children’s products which is pretty quick turn-around time for a ban proving just how dangerous Tris-PB (type of flame retardant) was.
So after absorbing all this information from the chapter in Slow Death By Rubber Duck I felt quite safe that the problem of the government sticking flame retardants in children’s sleepwear is an issue I don’t have to concern myself with. Only something Rick mentioned in the chapter has been bugging me for months since I read it ~ the fact that polyester has naturally ‘built in’ flame retardants and because of this is a popular fabric choice for large manufacturers of sleepwear. I’m in no way suggesting that the flame retardants that are found ‘naturally’ in polyester are as dangerous as the ones that were banned in the 70′s, but the author of Slow Death By Rubber Duck tried to get answers from one of the largest kid’s sleepwear retailers (Carters) asking what type of flame retardants are mixed into the polyester they use and couldn’t get his question answered. If one of the leading Environmentalists in Canada couldn’t get answers – I won’t even attempt. And rather than frustrate myself with trying to investigate further, I’m opting to remove any sleepwear from my kids PJ drawer that are made from polyester. And this isn’t a slag on Carters – every big name that produces sleepwear for children uses either polyester or cotton.
Your children spend close to 10-12 hours a night sleeping in their PJs – that is the longest stretch of time they spend in clothing throughout the day. I went through my boy’s PJs drawer this weekend and couldn’t believe how many PJs were 100% polyester. Before you think this doesn’t apply to you…go check. You’ll be surprised at how many soft fabrics are actually polyester – not cotton. I’ve removed the polyester PJs from my sons’ PJ drawer and with Christmas on the near horizon – a new item on everyone’s Santa list will be either 100% cotton or bamboo PJs. And while we are talking about it – watch for decals, plastic, sparkles, etc. that are decorating your child’s sleepwear….these appliques are made from PVC. This is the ‘poison plastic’ that has no business being near your child while they are sleeping. I know the Superman and Disney Cars decals are fun on PJs but really, night-time sleepwear is the perfect place to reduce toxic materials. The sand man is easily impressed and children don’t have any pressure to wear commercialism laced products to bed.