Toxic Dreams

“Goodnight, toxic dreams sweetheart.”

How many parents do you think have said that to their child, when tucking them in at night?

Instead, we want our children to have sweet dreams, the sweetest dreams imaginable. Furthermore, I want my children to have the cleanest, most toxic free sleeping environment to have their dreams in. The problem is, we as parents cannot put our trust in the manufacturers of our children’s sleepwear, when it comes to protecting them from toxics. The federal government has mandated that all sleepwear, intended for children 9 mos and older, be treated with flame retardant chemicals and these toxic flame retardants are nothing to make light of.

The most prominent group of chemicals, called polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDE’s, are man-made, bromine based chemicals that are said to be the successor of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s). PCB’s were banned many years ago because of their toxicity, however, the problem was not solved,  as PBDE’s have their own host of issues related to them; issues such as impaired learning and memory, reproductive defects, cancer, and impaired immune systems. They are global pollutants that build up in the blood and tissues of people and many other living things.

Consequently, in a research study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) it was found that these chemicals were not only found in adults, children and older babies, but in 10 out of 10 newborn’s cord blood. Unexpectedly high levels of PBDE’s were also found in the breast milk of 20 out of 20 women tested randomly, in a study conducted in September of 2003! That shows this is not a hot off the press issue; but it is one we need to remain consciously aware of, and one that requires action on our part to insure our children are exposed as minimally as possible to these harmful toxics.

Things you can do:

The Government has allowed an exception to the rule, that being snug fitting pajamas do not have to be treated. Most 100% cotton, snug fitting pajamas will be free of flame retardants. It is easy to check however, by looking for a tag attached to an arm or a sign on the package.  Another excellent choice is wool. Wool is naturally flame retardant and has a host of other benefits; though it has a reputation for being scratchy, it can actually be very soft! Avoid sleepwear made with synthetic fibers, altogether.

Look for this tag, most commonly attached to the arms of pajamas.

Look for this label on the back of packaged pajamas.










2.   To be absolutely safe, opt for 100% organic pajamas. They may appear quite costly when compared to non-organic options, but considering the amount of time children are in their jammies, 1/3 to 1/2 of their day, it’s worth it.  If you search online, you will find there are places that have very decent prices. Also, Costco carries organic children’s pajamas, under their name brand Kirkland, at an affordable price.

3.   If new pajamas are not a feasible expense, consider soaking your child’s pajamas in something acidic. A two-day soak in a 50/50 vinegar to water solution is one option, and the one I recommend. Using lemon juice in water, 1 cup lemon juice per gallon of water, is an option too. A third option is a coca-cola soak, that stuff eats everything πŸ˜‰

I have focused on sleepwear in this article, but unfortunately the sleepwear issue is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to toxic PBDE’s and where they are found. These toxic flame retardants are used in many other children’s items, including, but not limited to: teethers, bath books, sleep accessories (i.e. blankets, pillows, sheets, mattress pads) and probably most important, mattresses themselves. The issue concerning mattresses is a whole article in itself; but I will shed a little light on it because it is sooo important, quite possibly even more important than the issue concerning sleepwear.

Conventional mattresses are not only treated with PBDE’s. Other commonly used chemicals are boric acid, formaldehyde, decabromodipheyl oxide, melamine, and antimony; you can become more informed about these common chemicals at Body Friendly Furniture. Organic, natural, chemical-free mattresses can literally cost thousands, upon thousands of dollars. We went with a little different of an approach to the common mattress, by replacing our conventional mattress with Japanese inspired organic futons from Carolina Morning.  They are nothing like the Americanized futons you may be thinking of. They are made from organic kapok, wool and cotton and were the most cost effective way of replacing our old, toxic mattress. We have been pleasantly pleased with them, and will soon be replacing all of our children’s mattresses with futons of their own. Don’t forget pillows, the very thing your child lays their head down to sleep on. I have to recommend the kapok pillows made by Carolina Morning; my husband and I both lay our heads down to sleep on them, and neither one of us could be more comfortable. The children will soon be getting their own as well!

Please remember, no one can do everything, but everyone can do something. Figure out what that “something” is for you, begin putting it into action, and keep seeking to become more informed. The more you know, the better your decisions will become, and you will feel more empowered, trust me!

I leave you with these two short video reports:

Sweet Dreams to you all!


  1. lesley ann says:

    that is GREAT Tarra… thank you for sharing that info…
    I think I’ll try soaking my kids pj’s in coca cola for SURE! πŸ˜‰

  2. Sarah Bauer says:

    Another thing you can do if you can’t fork out the cash for new mattresses is to get mattress covers for at least the crib and pack & play. The mattress covers found at this website ( are very affordable and provide a great barrier between your children and those toxic gasses. πŸ™‚