Moms reject flame-retardant PJs for kids

Some mothers worry chemicals pose health risk

Author: Marilyn Moritz, Reporter, mmoritz@ksat.com
Published On: Apr 28 2013 10:46:19 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 29 2013 02:15:06 AM CDT
SAN ANTONIO -

Meghann Dibrell does everything she can to keep her toddler, Gabriella, safe from danger.  

But when it comes to pajamas, if the label says "fire-resistant," she keeps on shopping.

"I don't buy them," she said. "I'm not interested in having any chemicals. It's not something I want her sleeping in."

Dibrell is among a growing number of moms who think flame-retardant chemicals that are marketed as protecting their children are actually the greater risk.

Isis Thompson's sons, 4-year-old Greg and 20-month-old Keyari, usually don't sleep in traditional pajamas.

"To me, it's an unnecessary risk," Thompson said. She's concerned the potentially toxic chemicals can be inhaled or leach into the skin.

"Your skin is the largest organ in the body, so they are exposed to it continuously for more hours than they are not exposed to it," she said.

Both mothers say they take other precautions to protect their homes and families from fire, like avoiding candles, cigarettes and making sure they have working smoke alarms.

The mothers have support, not only from like-minded parents, but from some in the medical community.

"It's not clear flame-retardant pajamas save lives," said Dr. Josef Thundiyil, medical toxicologist at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, Fla.

Chemical exposure is a real concern, according to Thundiyil, even with the newest flame retardant called PROBAN, which is made from the chemical tetrakis hydromethyl phosphonium chloride or THPC.

"There have been links to liver injury, promoting cancer growth and other health effects that everybody should understandably be concerned about or look out for," Thundiyil said.

It is the potential health effects that concern Ireane Contreras. Her sons, Marcus and David, don't sleep in fire-retardant pajamas either.

"There's not a lot of information about what chemicals they use," she said. "The ones we do know about have really horrible effects when you're exposed to them.

The controversy over fire-retardants in children's products dates back to the 1970s when chlorinated TRIS was banned from children's sleepwear because of links to cancer.

The chemical industry has long argued flame retardants are safe.

Thompson doesn't buy the argument or the sleepwear.

"I would prefer everything be labeled so I can have options: this has flame-retardant, this does not," Thompson said.

Labeling is not required. So how does a parent know? Even natural fibers can have fire-retardant.

The biggest clue is the large, yellow rectangular tag that is attached to some sleepwear. If the tags state the garment should be "snug-fitting" or "not flame-resistant," it more than likely does not have flame-retardant chemicals in or on the fabric.

If parents do choose to avoid flame-retardants, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends children's sleepwear fit snugly.

For a list of recent stories Marilyn Moritz has done, click here.