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Cotton sleepwear again under fire

Despite the fact that the Consumer Product Safety Commission has repeatedly given cotton sleepwear its nod of approval, legislation has again been introduced in Congress to prohibit the sale of children's cotton sleepwear.

Known as the Children's Sleepwear Safety Act of 2001, H.R. 730, revokes the January 1997 amendment to the Children's Sleepwear Flammability Standards allowing the sale of snug-fitting cotton sleepwear for infants and children through size 6X.

The pending legislation is co-sponsored by 22 representatives, including congressmen from the cotton-producing states of California and Virginia. They include Rep. Susan A. Davis, Rep. Tom Lantos, and Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, all of California, and Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia.

No floor action has been taken on the bill, which was sent to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and then referred March 14 to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Despite what the National Cotton Council considers scientific evidence to the contrary, misconceptions continue to obscure the sleepwear safety issue.

After a similar effort to revoke the January 1997 amendment to the Children's Sleepwear Flammability Standards, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reiterated its support of the amendment in 1999 by a 2-1 vote.

Phil Wakelyn, National Cotton Council scientist and environmental health and safety specialist, says, “The Consumer Product Safety Commission standards were amended by the agency in 1996 after years and millions of dollars of study and were reaffirmed in 1999, when mandatory labeling was added.”

“CPSC is dedicated to children's safety, and this government agency made these amendments to make the standards more effective without reducing the safety of the original standards,” he says. “The standards are aimed at protecting children who are wearing sleepwear from small, open-flame sources when they are up and moving about. No commercial wearing apparel will be protective if the house or bed is on fire.”

The National Cotton Council (NCC), which has continually maintained that including tight-fitting cotton pajamas as a consumer choice does not pose a safety risk for children, is urging consumers to educate themselves about the labeling on cotton sleepwear. The labeling provisions are designed to help reduce confusion between what is considered sleepwear, underwear and playwear and offer the consumer a safe cotton alternative. Parents now have a choice of a clearly labeled alternative product if they want untreated 100 percent cotton or cotton blend sleepwear.

The labeling appears on non-flame resistant infant garments sized nine months and under and snug-fitting garments for sizes 9 months to 14, according to the National Cotton Council. The required yellow hangtag and permanent garment label read: “For child's safety, garments should fit snugly. This garment is not flame resistant. Loose-fitting garment is more likely to catch fire.”

The 1996 amendments did not change the regulations for loose fitting pajamas, nightgowns and robes. Those must be flame resistant because they are the most likely to be involved when injuries occur. The only children's sleepwear products that are not required to be flame resistant have to be snug fitting.

Wakelyn says, apparel manufacturers, distributors and retailers have an education and information campaign in place. The campaign, which the NCC supports, includes hangtags, point-of-purchase materials and signs posted in non-sleepwear product display areas warning parents not to purchase loose-fitting products not intended to be used as sleepwear.


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