Flame- Resistant Pajamas vs. Snug Fitting Pajamas


Children spend most of their time in pajamas so it is important for them to be comfortable, but safety is also paramount. Recently, I received a question about flame-resistant pajamas, and my feelings about them. I don’t believe they are necessary and am not a fan of them because of the chemicals used,

First, some history: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) first adopted standards for children’s sleepwear in 1971. The standards stipulated that all sleepwear exposed to a small open flame must self-extinguish. Polyester garments and cotton garments treated with chemical fire retardants were approved, but untreated cotton garments were not. Subsequent data indicated a significant decrease in sleepwear and fire related deaths and injuries among children.

The flammability standards in effect during the 1970s, nearly eliminated the use of cotton in children’s sleepwear. In 1977, the fire retardant Tris, commonly used in textiles, was found to be carcinogenic and was subsequently banned from use. Public demand for healthier, more comfortable garments grew, and during the 1980s and 90s, pressure from consumers groups lead to the CPSC’s relaxing the standards of the Flammable Fabrics Act to include untreated cotton garments. However, an important distinction was made with regard to fit. According to the CPSC, loose-fitting sleepwear made of cotton or cotton blends are associated with 200 burn injuries every year. When the standards changed in 1997, “snug-fitting” untreated cotton sleepwear became a legal alternative for children over 9 months old. The same amendment eliminated all restrictions for infant (0-9 months) sleepwear, since infants are less mobile, and most burn injuries result from children playing with fire.

Following the new CPSC standards all snug-fitting cotton sleepwear is labeled with a hangtag that says “For child’s safety, garment should fit snugly. This garment is not flame resistant. Loose-fitting garment is more likely to catch fire.” The permanent label says, “Wear snug-fitting. Not flame resistant.”

The current regulations determine the safety of cotton garments according to a set of measurements for each size group. These measurements are based on testing done to determine the optimum snugness necessary to prevent the garment from being flammable when exposed to an open flame. The standards are based on studies that showed eliminating the airspace—and therefore the oxygen—between the garment and the child’s skin significantly diminished a cotton garment’s flammability. (CPSC used dressed mannequins for their testing.)Cotton can be treated with fire retardants, though the strict CPSC standards requiring all cotton garments to be snug-fitting and the negative perception of treated natural fibers do not create a favorable market for such innovation.

According to The Green Guide,your choices, then, from worst to best are 1) nylon or acetate treated with fire retardants, 2) “inherently” flame resistant polyester with fire retardants built into the polymer or 3) snug-fitting cotton garments. The healthiest safe choice with the lowest embodied energy and lowest ecological impact would be snug-fitting, organic cotton long johns or union suit-style pajamas with the “Wear snug-fitting. Not flame resistant” label. These common sense choices conform to the CPSCs standards, give the environment a break and provide your child with safe and comfortable sleepwear.

Since the Flammable Fabrics Act, was enacted to basically protect children who are playing with matches, or an open flame, I prefer to keep a close eye on my child, and dress him in comfy snug cotton pajamas.