Green Tip – Avoiding Toxic Sleepwear

by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: When buying sleepwear, avoid pajamas containing flame retardants, synthetic materials and pesticide laden materials. Look instead for pajamas that are snug fitting and made with natural, organic fibers.

Flame Retardants

In the United States, children’s sleepwear sized 9 months to 14 years must meet certain flammability requirements. The requirement is intended to protect children from burns.

Chemicals used on pajamas or pajama fabrics include chlorinated and brominated flame retardants, inorganic flame retardants such as antimony oxides, and phosphate-based compounds. Chlorinated and brominated flame retardants are contaminating the environment and accumulating in the human body. For example, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been linked to doing damage to the nervous and reproductive systems and impairing thyroid function. North Americans have the highest body burden of PBDEs in the world.

Source: Avoiding Flame Retardants In Cozy Children’s Pajamasby Jennifer Taggart, TheSmartMama

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there have been unintended consequences linked to using these chemicals. There is growing evidence that PBDEs persist in the environment and accumulate in living organisms, as well as toxicological testing that indicates these chemicals may cause liver toxicity, thyroid toxicity, and neurodevelopmental toxicity.

According to Erin Royer, owner of Snug Organics, PBDEs have been linked to damage of the thyroid, immune system, reproductive system, and liver. They disturb brain development, learning abilities, hormone function and can cause cancer, hyperactivity (ADD & ADHD), obesity, diabetes and permanent behavioral changes. These are all the same conditions that are increasing in our children today, who are the most highly exposed.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requires that children’s sleepwear contain flame-retardants or be snug fitting. Erin suggests that parents choose “snug fitting” due to the dangers of flame-retardants, which are added to materials during the manufacturing process in order to reduce the likelihood of a garment catching fire. Flowing nightgowns and baggy tops and bottoms have a higher chance of coming into contact with an open flame than a snug fitting pair of pajamas.

If you don’t want flame retardants, then always look for the specific key phrases “must be snug fitting” and “not flame resistant.”


Most children’s sleepwear is made of polyester (fleece), nylon acetate, and rayon. These fabrics begin their lives as a vat of chemicals, including petroleum. They have a prolonged landfill life, create more dependence on oil and take 40% more energy to produce than cotton. They are not breathable and block out air sometimes causing the body to overheat. These synthetics can also emit toxic gasses and are allergenic, causing respiratory disease in some cases. Polyester is plastic and will melt when heated. Synthetics must also contain flame retardants.


Conventional cotton is one of the most pesticide-saturated crop in the world and one of the most environmentally destructive. 90% of production involves the use of synthetic chemicals. It takes one-third of a pound of pesticides and fertilizers to make one cotton t-shirt. 70% of conventional cotton farmers use GMO seeds and treat them with fungicides and insecticides. Synthetic fertilizers and herbicides are added to the soil to kill weeds, five of which are probable carcinogens. Aerial spraying of these chemicals drift onto farm workers, neighboring wildlife and communities. They runoff into our water, cannot be eliminated by water treatment centers, and end up in our city water systems. Residues of these chemicals have been found in human amniotic fluid, breast milk and fatty tissues. The biggest problem with non-organic cotton fabric is the finishes. Softeners and brighteners like bleach, formaldehyde, heavy metals, and ammonia are used in the finishing process of conventional cotton and a scientific link has been proven between these toxic chemicals and cancer, endocrine disruption and even reproductive disorders. Permanent press finish releases formaldehyde and no amount of washing removes permanent press.

Source: Erin Royer, owner of Snug Organics

The Healthy Children Project recommends

buying clothing, bedding and furniture made of natural fibers, such as cotton and wool, which do not melt near heat and as such do not need to contain flame-retardants.

The Environmental Working Group says,

To avoid any chemicals in sleepwear and reduce the risk of igniting sleepwear, we suggest you choose natural fibers that are inherently fire resistant and snug-fitting.

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

Organic Authority
Organic Authority
seeks to change the way Americans think about the word organic, washing away the grungy hippy image of the past. Their goal is to disseminate information while educating the public about the benefits of buying and choosing organic produce, meats, and products, while promoting sustainable living and an organic lifestyle. They believe that implementing small fundamental changes in the choices we make everyday will have a large impact on the future of healthy families around the world and protect Mother Earth for generations to come.

Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at

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