Monday, March 3, 2008

#185 - Don't Be Retarded

Avoiding the Flame-Retardant Pajamas

My apologies for the totally un-PC title, but it really does describe the change. The picture? Well, once I had a theme, I figured I'd keep it going. Besides, in the context of things, it's still funnier than showing the effects of toxic flame retardants on our environment or what melted plastic does to human skin.

According to an article from the Healthy Children Project, "Across the world, scientists are studying Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs), the family of chemicals that act as flame retardants. The results of their studies are of great concern. They are finding extremely high levels of these neurotoxic, and potentially carcinogenic, chemicals in the bodies of humans and wildlife—levels far higher than those found even ten years ago."

"Animal studies have linked PBDEs to neurodevelopmental and behavioral deficits, thyroid hormone disruption, and possibly cancer. PBDEs are used more heavily in the U.S. and Canada than anywhere else in the world."

"PBDEs may impair the brain function and motor skills of children. All PBDEs disrupt thyroid hormone balance because the chemical structure of PBDEs closely resembles thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormone function is critical to proper brain development both in the womb and after birth. Newborn mice exposed to PBDEs experienced damage to their nervous systems, resulting in learning and motor deficits that worsened as the animals grew older. "

PBDEs are found in a number of household products, including flame-retardant children's pajamas. In fact, until the mid-nineties, all children's sleepwear was required by the US Federal Government to be flame-retardant. This requirement, originally enacted in the 70's, was designed to protect kids, since most pj's are made from polyester. Get the connection? Polyester is plastic. Plastic melts when it gets heated and could melt to the skin of a child. Not a pretty thought. (Now see why I chose the owl picture?)

But in the early nineties, the feds realized the hazards of PBDEs and amended the laws to allow the sale of non-PBDE treated pjs. So nowadays you have a choice. You can select baggy-style, poly-blend, flame-retardant pajamas, or bound-to-shrink-a-lot, skin-tight, hooker-lookin' pj's. Opt for the skin-tight ones.

And even though I strongly advocate buying used clothing or accepting hand-me-downs, this is definitely an exception to that rule. If you can't get pre-owned, non-flame-retardant jammies, then by all means, go hit Target and get the kids some stylin' new body-hugging sleepwear. Just be sure to return those #6 hangers they're sold on.

Now, you're thinking, "well that's wonderful that you're saving your kids from inhaling toxic chemicals, but what does that have to do with saving the environment?" To which I say "Get off my ass already, I'm getting to that.".

Scientists have now found PBDEs in Arctic polar bears. What the hell those bears were doing wearing baggy, flame-retardant pajamas, I'll never know. I mean, for Peter, Paul and Mary's sake, how often do polar bears die in house fires?!?!?!?! COME ON!

Well, apparently, they aren't. It's just that this nasty shit stays around for a long time and once it off-gases into the atmosphere, it floats around all over the globe. And the bad news is, it's not just in our jammies, it's in our furniture, computers, carpets, mattresses, draperies, etc. Basically, any household plastic or foam item that you wouldn't want bursting into flames during a fire.

There is a ton of information out there, if you want to take steps to reduce your exposure to PBDEs. I for one, am going to start with the very small step of avoiding them in my kids' pjs. Baby steps. Baby, footed-pajama steps.


MamaBird said...

Oh man, I am still wiping the tears. Laughing, that is, at the Get off my ass already, I'm getting to the enviro part... Guess I have to check my kid's hand me downs? I hate persistent organic pollutants. If you haven't read Having Faith by Sandra Steingraber it's amazing.

Jennifer said...

It's so true... it's EVERYWHERE! I wanted to buy a 100% cotton futon mattress a couple years ago... you can't order one new without a DOCTOR"S note that you are allergic to the polyester mixed with the PBDE's! And of course, I only found one small company willing to do even that. The explanantion was federal rules due to flame retardant/resistance.

I for one have NEVER heard of a big lump of cotton (such a s afuton) going up in flames in a massive fireball.

Wendy said...

I got a real good mental visual of the melting pajamas, and I said a quick thank you to the clothing gods that I'm a cheapass, and I don't buy "pajamas" for my kids. They wear t-shirts and sweatpants to bed.

And then I finished reading the post, and got a real good visual picture of the polar bear babies in footie pajamas. Much better visual :).

Thank you, once again, for bringing to light another one of our "modern" society's idiotic attempts to fix something we broke. Flannel really is a good alternative to fleece for pajamas. Flannel is cotton, not plastic :), and requires no basting in toxic substances.

Heather said...

Pulling out all the stops on trying to make new friends, eh?

heather t said...

Keep in mind that you can get the non-toxic (to wear at least) cotton pjs a couple sizes up so you don't have to worry about cutting off circulation to little fingers & toes.

The main reason cotton pjs are "supposed" to be skin tight is to avoid the risk of a flowing nighty (or something) igniting around an open flame/heat source such as a fireplace, electric heater, or wood-burning stove. In an actual house fire, a child is far more likely to be harmed by smoke inhalation vs. burned by actual flames. (Read this in The Tightwad Gazette - I highly recommend this book!)

Green Bean said...

I've had my kids out of flame retardant jammies for a long time. In cold weather, put them in sweats rather than the fleece which almost aways come wtih PBDEs on them. You folks can probably figure that out but it took me months.

Also, we too have a flame retardant mattress which we got with a doctor's prescription. Most practicioners of alternative medicine will give you such a prescription. Try LifeKind mattresses - they are wonderful and have a yearly sale (sorry, you missed it, it's in January) where their flame retardant free mattresses are the same price as regular store bought mattresses. We also have flame retardant free pillows (organic foam). Wonderful.

Great post!