As a parent, you want to keep your child safe and comfortable, especially when they are sleeping. You may have heard that some children’s clothing and pyjamas are treated with flame retardant chemicals to reduce their flammability. But you may also wonder if these flame retardants are toxic or safe for your child’s health and the environment. In this blog post, we explore the pros and cons of flame retardants, and give you some tips on how to avoid them in pyjamas for your children.
To reduce the chance of the nightwear catching fire while avoiding flame retardant chemicals, choose snug-fitting pyjamas and low fire hazard fabrics. Of course, this only reduces the risk of burn injuries, as the most important step is to eliminate the risk by keeping children away from fire.
What are flame retardants?
Flame retardant chemicals are added to fabrics to make them less likely to burn or slow down the spread of fire. They are used in many products, such as carpets, mattresses, furniture, electronics, and clothing. Some of the common flame retardant chemicals used in children’s clothing are halogenated hydrocarbons (such as chlorine and bromine), inorganic flame retardants (such as antimony oxides), and phosphate-based compounds.
Is there a requirement for fabrics to be treated with flame retardant chemicals?
No, there is not a general requirement for fabrics to be treated with flame retardants. However, some fabrics may need to be treated to meet the flammability standards for certain products, such as kids pyjamas, mattresses, furniture, curtains, and carpets. The use of flame retardant chemicals may also depend on the type of fabric, the intended use of the product, and the regulations of the country or region where the product is sold.
Some flame retardant chemicals are prohibited or restricted due to their potential health and environmental effects. Therefore, it is important to check the specific requirements and regulations for the product and the market before using flame retardant chemicals on fabrics.
Is the use of flame retardants on children's clothing common in Australia and NZ?
The use of flame retardant chemicals on children’s clothing is not very common in Australia and NZ, as most children’s sleepwear can meet the low fire hazard requirements without them.
According to the Product Safety Australia website: The mandatory standard does not require children’s nightwear to be treated with flame retardant chemicals. In fact, some flame retardant chemicals are banned for use in children’s nightwear. The mandatory standard allows manufacturers to use fabrics that are inherently flame-resistant or design garments that are snug-fitting, which hinders ignition and burn rates.
However, some children’s sleepwear may still be treated with flame retardant chemicals if they belong to category 4, which requires a high fire hazard warning label. These garments are usually made of fabrics that have a pile or nap, such as fleece or terry towelling. The use of flame retardant chemicals on children’s winter pyjamas may also depend on the country of origin or destination of the product, as different countries may have different regulations and standards.
Therefore, it is advisable to check the labels of children’s clothing for any information on flame retardant chemicals. or fire hazard warnings. You can also look for organic or natural fabrics that are less likely to be treated with flame retardants.
Image from the Commerce Commission NZ
What are the risks of flame retardant chemicals on children’s skin?
While flame retardant chemicals may have some benefits for preventing burn injuries from small open flames, they also have some drawbacks for children’s health and the environment. Some of the risks of toxic flame retardant chemicals are:
- Exposure: Children may be exposed to toxic flame retardant chemicals through inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact. The chemicals may off-gas from the fabric into the air that children breathe, especially in warm and humid conditions. The chemicals may also leach from the fabric into the saliva or sweat that children swallow or absorb through their skin. Children may also ingest the chemicals by sucking or chewing on their clothing or by touching their mouths after handling their clothing.
- Toxicity: Some flame retardant chemicals have been linked to various health problems in humans and animals, such as hormone disruption, reproductive impairment, neuro-developmental delays, cancer, liver damage, thyroid dysfunction, and immune system suppression. Some studies have found higher levels of flame retardant chemicals in the blood and urine of children than adults, suggesting that children are more vulnerable to their toxic effects.
- Persistence: Some flame retardant chemicals are persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which means that they do not break down easily in the environment and can accumulate in the food chain. They can travel long distances through air and water currents and contaminate remote areas and wildlife. They can also persist in human tissues and breast milk for years after exposure.
- Resistance: Some flame retardant chemicals may not be as effective as they claim to be. Some studies have shown that some fabrics treated with flame retardants do not perform better than untreated fabrics in preventing or slowing down fire. Some fabrics may even increase the toxicity of smoke and gases when they burn. Moreover, some fabrics may lose their flame resistance after washing or wearing.
How to choose safe pyjamas for my children?
Given the pros and cons of flame retardant chemicals on children’s pyjamas, you may wonder how you can choose safe clothing for your child. Here are some tips to help you make informed decisions:
- Check the labels on children’s clothing and pyjamas for information about the fabric type, the fire hazard level, and the care instructions.
- Choose nightwear that is made of natural fibres such as cotton, wool, or silk, which are less flammable than synthetic fibres such as polyester or nylon.
- Look for clothing that has a low fire hazard label, which means that it is less flammable and snug-fitting.
- Do not choose pyjamas labelled high fire danger, which means that it is loose-fitting and treated with flame retardants.
- Choose organic: If you want to avoid flame-retardant chemicals altogether, opt for snug-fitting organic cotton pyjamas.
- Keep away from fire: The best way to prevent burn injuries from clothing is to keep your child away from fire and other sources of ignition. Teach your child about fire safety and the dangers of playing with matches, lighters, candles, stoves, heaters, or fireworks. Use guards or screens around fireplaces, radiators, or heaters. Keep flammable liquids and aerosols away from heat sources. Install smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in your home and have an escape plan in case of fire. Teach your child to stop, drop, cover their face, and roll if their clothing catches fire.
Organic Nights organic cotton pyjamas are certified organic right to the final product by GOTS. These beautiful, soft, and snug pyjamas have also won the Australian Non Toxic Awards.