There's been a lot of controversy as to whether or not the chemicals used to make baby pajamas flame resistant are safe for the sensitive skin of babies; as of today, there is still no clear answer.
The History of Flame Resistant Baby Pajamas
In the 1970s, rules adopted by the Department of Commerce (and later transferred to the Consumer Product Safety Commission or CPSC) stated that baby pajamas must self-extinguish if exposed to an open flame for 3 seconds or more. Given this requirement, polyester became a popular fabric because it is naturally flame resistant and did not require treatment; other fabrics were treated with a chemical called tris phosphate - also known as TDBPP or TRIS. This practice was short lived however because research showed that the chemical caused cancer and sterility in animals; TRIS was officially banned in 1977.
The Current Regulations
In 1996, the CPSC amended the regulations and approved untreated, snug-fitting cotton garments as appropriate sleepwear for babies because the snug-fitting garments effectively eliminated any space for the flow of oxygen between the babies skin and the clothing they were wearing.
Today, it is estimated that less than 1% of all baby pajamas are actually treated to be marketed as flame resistant, but there is still interest in the procedure because some parents feel it is the only way to keep their baby safe. To answer the need, several major children's clothing lines have begun selling 100% cotton pajamas treated with a flame retardant chemical called PROBAN.
PROBAN is made from a chemical called tetrakis hydromethyl phosphonium chlorida - or THPC. This chemical is added to the finishes stages of the garment, allowing the flame retardant molecules to penetrate the fabric and form a water insoluble polymer to form. The cotton remains soft but if the fabric comes into contact with the flame, it will extinguish itself.
While studies have shown that there is a low migration of these chemicals from fabric to skin, there is speculation that THPC causes genetic abnormalities, as well as damage to the liver and nervous system, and promotes the growth of cancerous tumor. As such, the safety of its use in the manufacturing process is in question. Because of these unanswered questions, parents wonder about the safety of fabrics treated with PROBAN.
In lieu of purchasing baby pajamas treated with this chemical, parents are purchasing snug-fitting baby pajamas made from cotton, organic cotton, wool, bamboo, and Sherpa, or wearable fleece blankets and sleep sacks.
Until we know for sure the risk involved with the use of PROBAN, parents should purchase with caution and consider other alternatives.