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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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by Wendy Gabriel

From What Individuals Can Do: Recommendation from the President’s Cancer Panel:

Individuals can take important steps in their own lives to reduce their exposure to environmental elements that increase risk for cancer and other diseases. And collectively, individual small actions can drastically reduce the number and levels of environmental contaminants.

It is vitally important to recognize that children are far more susceptible to damage from environmental carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting compounds than adults. To the extent possible, parents and child care providers should choose foods, house and garden products, play spaces, toys, medicines, and medical tests that will minimize children’s exposure to toxins.


From an illustrated guide book in a Toronto hotel:

All green spaces are pesticide-free. In 2004, Toronto became the largest municipality in the world to ban cosmetic use of lawn and garden pesticides. The Sierra Club of Canada reports a clear link between pesticide use and breast cancer; many other studies have shown the dangers to children from chemical exposure to pesticides.

Source: Sandra Steingraber: Canadian Bylaws; American Lawn Flags

It is not ok that we are exposing our children needlessly to toxic chemicals. We need to make changes. We don’t need to wait for someone to tell us we have to make the changes. We need to do the right thing for our children now. If we don’t, who will?

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by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: Avoid buying school supplies that are made from WDAY Green Tipspolyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl). The health risks of PVC are prevalent throughout the life span of this unnecessary toxic plastic. From the manufacturing process, the use and the disposal, PVC causes health risks for the communities near the chemical plants, our children and our environment.

According to the Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ), PVC plastic is one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created. PVC is dangerous to human health and the environment throughout its entire life cycle, at the factory, in our homes, and in the trash. Our bodies are contaminated with poisonous chemicals released during the PVC lifecycle, such as mercury, dioxins, and phthalates, which may pose irreversible life-long health threats. When produced or burned, PVC plastic releases dioxins, a group of the most potent synthetic chemicals ever tested, which can cause cancer and harm the immune and reproductive systems.

CHEJ has created a Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies to empower all of us to make smarter, healthier shopping choices for a toxic-free future. The guide lists the most common back-to-school supplies made out of PVC plastic and suggests safer PVC-free alternatives.


• Products that are labeled with the words “vinyl” on the packaging.
• The number “3” inside the universal recycling symbol.
• The letters “V” or “PVC” underneath the universal recycling symbol.
• Other toxic plastics to avoid: polycarbonate (PC), polystyrene (PS) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastics.

For additional information:
CHEJ’s report, PVC: The Poison Plastic.
Beth Terry’s informative summary on the evils of PVC, New Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies.


Rather than recycling or tossing PVC items, like old vinyl curtains and floor tiles, in the trash, Mike Schade, CHEJ’s PVC campaign coordinator, recommends disposing of them in hazardous waste landfill sites. Call your sanitation department or state environmental agency to see where you might dispose of hazardous material.

CHEJ also suggests returning PVC products and packaging to retailers and manufacturers. “We recommend consumers contact manufacturers and let them know that PVC is an unacceptably toxic material and that it should not be used in production,” says Anne Rabe with CHEJ. “As consumers, they can also send that message by not purchasing products packaged or made from PVC.” Look for the number 3 in the recycling symbol or the letter “V.”

This is becoming an easier task already. Rabe points out that there are a number of PVC alternatives already on the market. For example, Ikea now sells non-PVC shower curtains exclusively.

Some manufacturers have already heard the calls for a halt to PVC use in production. CHEJ has successfully worked with Victoria’s Secret and Microsoft to eliminate PVC from their packaging and is currently in talks with Target, Sears and Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has already committed to eliminating PVC in its private-label-product packaging in two years.

Source: CHEJ’s report, PVC: The Poison Plastic

My Green Side’s weekly web pick:

The Center for Health, Environment & Justice (CHEJ)
CHEJ’s overarching goal has consistently been to prevent harm—particularly among vulnerable populations such as children. If a safer process, material or product exists it should be used. They believe that everyone, regardless of income, race, religion, or occupation, has a right to live, work, learn, play and pray in a healthy community.

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

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 By Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP:  Use 1/4 to 1 cup of white vinegar to soften your clothes instead of commercial fabric softener.

It is unbelievable the chemicals contained in the products we are supposed to know and trust.  The cuddly, fabric softeners and dryer sheets you use to make your family’s clothes smell nice and feel soft are full of chemicals that could make everyone in your home very sick. 

When I was pregnant with our first baby, I began to use a non-toxic, bio-degradable laundry detergent.  And when she was born, I never used dryer sheets on her clothes.  I thought I was being good to her skin and to the environment. 

But by using dryer sheets with all the other laundry, I might as well have made a blanket of them and wrapped her in it because they have a chemical that makes them spew their “fresh” scent over and over again! 

According to the Allergy and Environmental Health Association (AEHA), the “product is designed to impregnate fibres and slowly re-release for an extended period of time.  That re-releasing affects the health not only of users, but those around them.”  Wonderful.  And apparently the fabric softener/dryer sheet-makers took a page out of the cigarette makers’ playbook and made sure to add “neurostimulant/irritants and central nervous system toxins”; they are added to produce “an addictive-type response that may cause the user to experience a feeling of pleasure when the product is directly inhaled.” 

The nicotine of the laundry industry. 

This wouldn’t be so terrible if the potential health effects of the chemicals used to make these products weren’t unbelievably awful.  I will list just a few:  Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), Alzheimer’s, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Dementia, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis.  And, incredibly, there are even more. 

Health warns that “most of the dangerous chemicals in fabric softeners are most dangerous when inhaled.”  Does anyone test these products before they are beautifully packaged and mercilessly marketed?  I did find a test performed by Anderson JH Anderson Laboratories, Inc.  Their findings conclude that “the results provide a toxicological basis to explain some of the human complaints of adverse reactions to fabric softener emissions.”  Apparently not enough of a deterrent to the companies selling these delightful products!

Be good, beware and shop smart.

For additional safe alternatives to common household products, the AEHA’s website has a great list for you to check out.

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By Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP:   Use a half a lemon with a sprinkle of baking soda on it to scrub your tub!

I learned this green cleaning tip on an amazing radio show I was listening to yesterday.  And I’m not just saying it was amazing because The Greek (my husband) was the guest co-host.  I learned some new things about cleaning green!  Two of the guests on the show, Meg and Tara, own their own cleaning company and they only use healthy, non-toxic, biodegradable products and cleaners. 

Since having children, I have tried to use non-toxic cleaners.  I use baking soda, vinegar and water to clean almost everything with the assorted Seventh Generation or Mrs. Meyers products thrown in.  I was also using a few drops of lavender essential oil to make everything smell better, and since lavender is a natural disinfectant I thought it was giving the vinegar an extra boost (and The Greek finds the scent of vinegar abhorrent).  I learned today that the lavender you get at the health food store is only good for making things smell good.  It doesn’t have the other benefits because it’s not therapeutic grade.  I didn’t know that!  Now I have to find a therapeutic grade lavender oil supplier (luckily, I think I can get it through Meg and Tara) because I am addicted to the stuff and I can’t wait to get my hands on the real stuff!  I use it for scenting my daughter’s baths to promote calm; I put in on their pillows and sheets to help them sleep; I put a few drops in a bottle with water so my four year old can “help” me clean.  It smells wonderful and she can spray it on virtually anything.

And, I learned tons about lemon.  It kills the germs that cause meningitis, pneumonia, diphtheria, tuberculosis and staph infections.  It inhibits mold growth and aflatoxin production. 

Here’s a great article about cleaning everything imaginable by The Green Guide and another at Mom’s Organic House.

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