By: Gayle Douglas
I have represented several children who have suffered extensive burns. These are some of my saddest cases. Very often, the burns could have been minimized or avoided altogether if the child had been dressed in sleepwear that met the minimum governmental standards for flammability. Unfortunately, parents often have no idea that children’s sleepwear should meet certain regulations.
Why are these regulations necessary?
At the heart of the regulations is the goal to protect children and babies from burns. Children ages zero to four are 20 percent more likely to die in a fire than the general population. This is for a number of reasons. Children have thin skin that is particularly vulnerable to serious burns. Children also have different sleep patterns than adults. They sleep ‘harder’ and more likely to sleep through a smoke alarm. Even if awake, they are often trapped in cribs or not able to navigate a way to safety. Finally, it will be no surprise to parents that children do not exhibit the best danger-avoidance behavior and often get too close to heating units, stoves and fireplaces.
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What do the regulations require?
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates all children’s sleepwear which is sold in America. See 16 C.F.R. Parts 1615 &1616. The CPSC requires children’s sleepwear to either (1) pass flammability tests, or (2) be ‘tight fitting’ and comply with certain dimensions. In order to meet CPSC standards, tight fitting sleepwear garments must:
(1) not exceed the maximum dimensions specified in the regulations for the chest, waist, seat, upper arm, thigh, wrist, or ankle;
(2) have no fabric ornament or trim, such as lace or ribbon, which extends more than ¼ inch from the point at which it is attached to the garment;
(3) have sleeves that taper from the shoulders to the ends of the sleeves;
(4) have pant legs that taper from the thighs to the ends of the pant legs;
(5) if they are 1-piece, taper from the chest down to the waist and from the seat to the waist;
(6) if they are 2-piece;
(a) have an upper piece that tapers from the chest to the bottom of the piece;
(b) if the upper piece has fastenings, have the lowest fastening located within 6 inches of the bottom of the piece; and
(c) have a lower piece that tapers from the seat to the top of the piece;
(7) bear a permanent label stating size of the garment;
(8) bear a hang tag alerting buyers that the garments are not flame-resistant and should be worn snug fitting because loose-fitting garments are more likely to catch fire; and
(9) comply with all of the flammability requirements for clothing textiles and vinyl plastic film.
Why does it matter if the clothing is tight fitting? One, clothing that hangs loose is more likely to find its way into any nearby flames; two, since tight-fitting clothing has less surface area in contact with oxygen, it is less likely to burn.
These standards are proven to save lives. It is estimated by the National Burn Center Reporting System that there has been a tenfold decrease in the number of deaths associated with children’s sleepwear since the enactment of children’s sleepwear standards. Unfortunately, the CPSC is over extended and pajamas are often marketed and sold which do not meet these standards. Parents usually shop for their children with price, fit and cuteness in mind. Flammability criteria should also been added to the list.
If baby sleepwear is NOT flame retardant or resistant, it will bear a yellow hang tag 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.”
If baby sleepwear IS flame retardant or resistant, the hang tag will indicate that it has been tested and it is flame resistant.