From KERA News:
John Rodakis estimates his two kids spend about 11 hours every night in their pajamas. Mostly sleeping, but sometimes playing a toy guitar, too.
Tonight, his 6-year-old daughter has on a synthetic, sky-blue nightgown with white stars. She has sensitive skin and doesn’t like long johns, so Rodakis went hunting for an all-natural cotton nightgown. He checked retailers like Hanna Andersson and Target, but, no luck.
“They don’t make ’em!” Rodakis says. “I thought that was odd. And I think I did a Google search for ‘Why can’t I find a cotton nightgown?’ and was really surprised at the answer.”
Going back to the ‘Cowboy Chap Scandal’
The answer takes us back to the mid-1940s, when a handful of kids, wearing Gene Autry cowboy suits, were severely burned when their rayon outfits caught fire. Some of them died. The so-called “cowboy chap” scandal helped launch a new law — the Flammable Fabrics Act of 1953 — aimed at making children’s clothes flame resistant.
In response, companies started adding chemicals to clothes to keep them from catching fire. The problem was that for decades, they added some pretty dangerous ones. Chemist Arlene Blum of the Green Science Policy Institute in California says in the 1970s, most of the children’s sleepwear in the country was treated with a flame retardant called TRIS
“And when we studied it,” Blum says, “it changed DNA and was likely to cause cancer.”
Blum and other researchers showed these chemicals would seep from the pajamas into the children after just one night of use. Parents were outraged.
“Every parent in America knew within a few weeks,” Blum says.
The response was so big that within just three months, the Consumer Product Safety Commission banned TRIS from use in kids pajamas. But the fear remained.