March 26, 2011

Flame Retardants Warning

There have been health concerns over flame retardants since 1977 when the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission banned a type of flame retardant made of brominated and chlorinated tris phosphate (Tris) after it was found to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Once Tris was banned a new type of flame retardants called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) came onto the market. In 2010, after years of study, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that PBDEs are bioaccumulative and toxic to both humans and the environment and began working on a voluntary phase out of the chemicals by the end of 2013.

According to the Environmental Working Group, “exposure to minute doses of toxic fire retardants such as PBDEs at critical points in development can damage reproductive systems and cause deficits in motor skills, learning, memory and hearing, as well as changes in behavior.” Children are exposed to PBDEs not only from wearing flame resistant sleepwear, but also from mouthing the fabric putting them at increased risk.

Wal-Mart recently announced that it has banned PBDEs from all of its consumer goods and will be conducting tests to verify that suppliers are complying with their ban. Hopefully, more companies will follow Wal-Mart's lead. Until then, keep a careful eye on the labeling on children's sleepwear (where most of the PBDEs in children's clothing are used). Opt for pajamas made of natural fibers with tags stating “must be snug fitting” and “not flame resistant.”

No matter how cute the footsie pajamas, nothing justifies exposing children to the unsafe chemicals found in flame retardants.

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