The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) today announced it is banning the sale of any children's clothing containing the flame-retardant chemical tris (2,3,-dibromopropyl) phosphate, commonly known as Tris. The ban also extends to any Tris-treated fabric that is uncut but is intended for sale to consumers for use in children's wearing apparel. Tris-treated children's garments which have been purchased by consumers but have not yet been washed are also banned.
The action came after a two-year feeding study conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) showed that Tris causes cancer in test animals. In addition, the Commission, based on its own laboratory tests and other scientific information available, finds that the chemical could be absorbed by children through the skin or by "mouthing" Tris-treated children's clothing. However, at the present time, CPSC is not aware of any instances where contact with Tris has led to cancer in humans.
The ban takes effect Friday, April 8, when notice of this action will be published in the Federal Register. Once published, it will mean that any of the affected products in interstate commerce or introduced into interstate commerce are banned and must be repurchased from retailers and distributors by any manufacturer or others who sold it. Consumers who have purchased but not washed any Tris-treated children's garments or uncut fabric are also entitled to a full refund of the purchase price.
Since washing the garments three or more times removes much of the chemical, already washed Tris-treated children's garments in the hands of consumers are not banned, according to the Commission decision, because it does not present a substantial risk of personal illness.
Current flammability standards require children's sleepwear, sizes 0-14, to be flame-resistant. Some fabrics are inherently flame-resistant, but others require the addition of chemicals to meet the standards. All manufacturers of children's sleepwear must meet the flammability standards, but those standards do not require the use of specific flame-retardant chemicals, nor require labeling the type of flame-retardant chemical used.
To assist consumers, the Commission offers these guidelines:
- Not all children's sleepwear is Tris-treated and children's garments, other than sleepwear, are rarely Tris-treated.
- To determine if a particular children's garment has been treated with Tris, consumers should contact the manufacturer or the store where the item was purchased.
- Washing a Tris-treated garment three or more times will virtually eliminate Tris in the sleepwear that is available for absorption through the skin or by "mouthing."
- Although the Commission finds already washed Tris-treated children's garments present little, if any, risk to the wearer, the garments can be discarded in the trash without fear of environmental damage.
Sleepwear garments contain a label indicating the type of fiber used. The following is a fiber guide indicating which fibers are treated with Tris, which are inherently flame-resistant and which ones require the addition of a chemical other than Tris:
The following fibers used in children's sleepwear, sizes 0-14, ARE TREATED WITH TRIS to achieve flame-resistance:
The following types of fibers used in children's sleepwear are inherently flame-resistant and DO NOT REQUIRE THE ADDITION OF ANY CHEMICAL:
Modacrylic (brand names Verel, SEF,
Matrix (brand name Cordelan);
Vinyon (brand name Leavil);
The following fibers used in children's sleepwear, sizes 0-14, CHARACTERISTICALLY REQUIRE THE ADDITION OF A CHEMICAL OTHER THAN TRIS to achieve flame-resistance:
100% Polyester is often treated with Tris; However, there is no certain way to distinguish among 100% polyester fibers that are untreated, treated with tris, or treated with another flame-retardant chemical.
The Commission estimates that 18 million Tris-treated children's sleepwear garments are currently available for sale and that as many as 120 million may be in consumers' hands.
However, CPSC continues to strongly support the need for flame-resistant sleepwear. Recent investigations indicate that burn injuries to children wearing flame-resistant sleepwear are significantly less severe than those to children wearing non-flame-resistant sleepwear.
The Commission acted in response to petitions filed by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a public interest research organization, which questioned the safety of Tris as a flame-retardant. As part of CPSC's consideration of these petitions, it requested that the National Cancer Institute expedite its work on Tris.
Consumers seeking information on Tris and fabric flammability should call the Commission's toll-free Hotline at 800/638-2772.
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