How to Avoid Fire Retardants in Children's Products and Sleepwear
California has recently passed Assembly Bill AB-2998 which restricts the use of flame retardant chemicals on new juvenile products, upholstered furniture, mattresses and on the components used on these new products. But wait a minute - what in the world are fire retardant chemicals doing on children’s products, are they dangerous and where else can my baby come in contact with them?
A quick history lesson - in the 1970’s, Congress passed a law that mandated all children’s pajamas be flame-resistant (mind you, smoke detectors weren’t required at this time). Compliant manufacturers started adding a chemical called Tris into their sleepwear products - until, of course, in the late 1970’s, scientists discovered that Tris was carcinogenic. While the chemical was removed, the fire safety requirement stayed in place and even today, pajamas for kids 9 months through size 14 must either be flame resistant or fit snugly. Important to note that fire retardant chemicals used today are not only Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) which accumulate in our bodies and in the environment, they are also associated with loss of IQ, attention problems, and other developmental problems in children.
Does that mean your kiddo’s pajamas are coated with them? Not necessarily and frankly, if you’re buying U.S brands - unlikely. Savvy manufacturers have complied with the law by keeping their sleepwear gowns tight fitting and marking them with the below yellow hang tag to alert the consumer that the gown is not fire resistant. Although, be advised that there are plenty of small manufacturers and sewing enthusiasts on Etsy and other marketplaces that sell sleepwear that is neither fire resistant or snug fitting.
While you can relax knowing that your child isn’t sleeping in pajamas coated with POPs, there is still plenty of room for concern. Here is a list of products where fire retardant chemicals can often be found: bassinet, booster seat, changing pad, floor play-mat, highchair, highchair pad, infant bouncer, infant carrier, infant seat, infant swing, infant walker, nursing pad, nursing pillow, playpen side pad, play yard, portable hook-on chair, stroller and children’s nap mat. Honestly, there are so many more, but these are the only ones that CA’s Assembly Bill AB-2998 will aim to protect by limiting the levels of these chemicals to 1,000 ppm. Perfect example: I ordered a crawling tunnel for my son and it was “fire resistant compliant” - aka, coated in fire retardant.
Assembly Bill AB-2998 went into effect on January 1, 2020 - but the changes are limited to the state of California. The state gave manufacturers, importers, wholesalers and retailers a year and 3 months to comply, stating that all non-compliant inventory should be liquidated or designated for sales outside of California. What does that mean for you? It depends where you live.
Flame retardant chemicals migrate out of products over their lifetime and end up in household dust. Inhalation and ingestion of indoor dust is a common route of human exposure to flame retardant chemicals. One way to curb some of this if you don’t have access to products that are compliant with AB-2998 is to buy used - overtime, most of the flame retardant particles would have made their way off the item in question, therefore, limiting the amount you and your baby could be exposed to. You can also try limiting the amount of time your baby spends in the stroller, the car seat, on a play mat or a new couch - all of these will have some flame retardant chemicals on them.
However, be smart - make sure your home is equipped with working smoke detectors and that there are no unsupervised open flames. Dress your baby in snug fitting clothing to avoid creating a space between her body and the garment that could give breathing room for a fire.
And remember - outdated legislation is only removed when parents, scientists and responsible companies get together to create change.
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