So is fire-retardant sleepwear toxic? Probably not, but it might not be as comfortable for your child as cotton because polyester doesn't "breathe" as well. Further, the polyester used in sleepwear is a fire-resistant blend, even without additional treatment. In 1977, a toxic fire-retardant chemical called Tris, used commonly in sleepwear, was banned. Since then most fire-resistant sleepwear has been additive-free. We have not found any sleepwear that does use Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) as a flame retardant. It has been shown to inhibit brain development in animals. In fact, less than one percent of either polyester or cotton sleepwear is chemically treated. Mark Ross of the CPSC says that his commission doesn't permit the sale of toxic clothing.
Which sleepwear to choose? Weigh each side: Fire-retardant sleepwear works no matter what the fit. Organic cotton is more earth-friendly and likely more comfortable, but must fit snugly to satisfy CPSC requirements. If you like the idea of chemical-free, organic cotton you can find pajamas and other apparel in stores or on the Internet.
Garden Kids (541-465-4544) sells organic cotton infantwear, baby blankets, snug-fitting (CPSC-compliant for fire-safe) pajamas and clothing up to children's size 14. Check out their striped jammies, which come in sizes newborn to 2/3. All of Patagonia's (800-638-6464) cotton lines for babies and kids, are organic. Maggie's Functional Organics sells baby socks in infant, toddler and youth sizes (800-609-8593).
A Spin on Baby Bottles
Regardless of whether you feed your baby breastmilk or formula, he's bound to have a bottle in his mouth at some point. And while plastic bottles can be convenient for parents and comforting to babies, careful use is advised to avoid some common risks. For example, scratches in plastic bottles and cracks in the nipples can harbor bacteria, contaminating the liquid your baby ingests. Microwave heating of milk or formula can cause hot spots, which have the potential to scald a baby's mouth.
But are baby bottles, themselves, safe? Some recent scientific research has raised new concerns about plastic baby bottles. Bisphenol-A is a component of polycarbonate plastic, the clear, rigid variety of plastic from which many bottles are made. This substance has been shown to be "estrogenic," meaning that it is an endocrine disruptor in lab animals, altering reproductive organs and functions. People are exposed to bisphenol-A from a myriad of products throughout life, but because babies have immature endocrine systems and are in a stage of rapid development, there is concern that they might be more vulnerable to the endocrine-disrupting effects of bisphenol-A than older children and adults. Because the risks to humans of bisphenol-A are unknown, the most conservative response to these findings would be to limit your baby's exposure to it. A bisphenol-A-containing plastic will have #7 in the bottle's recycling code.