The Chemicals Our Kids Are Wearing – Why This Momma Chooses Organic Kids Clothes
Reviewed by Lisa Blohm, PhD, MSN, RN
I can recall the exact moment I fell down the rabbit hole of organic kids clothes. I was mindlessly scrolling Facebook when I saw an article in my newsfeed about flame retardants on children’s pajamas. I read it. Then I read the next suggested article. And before I knew it, I was all in.
Organic clothing? Yes!
(CHECK OUT THE ORGANIC CLOTHES ABOVE: boy left is wearing H&M organic shirt and pants, boy middle is wearing Hanna Andersson organic pants and H&M organic jacket, girl right is wearing Hanna Andersson organic dress)
Organic Kids Clothes – Why It Matters
- Formaldehyde This prevents mildew, keeps clothing from becoming wrinkled during shipment, increases stain resistance, and is used for color fasting. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and the US does not regulate it’s use in clothing.
- Per fluorinated Chemicals (PFCs) This is a chemical used to make clothes wrinkle free or no-iron, and happens to be the same chemical used in Teflon. There have been links to this chemical with cancer and kidney disease, and it is often found on clothing to make it water-repellant (like raincoats).
- AZO Dyes These dyes are incredibly toxic but still used in clothing made in China.
- Nonylphenol Ehtoxylate (NPE) This chemical is deadly, can be hazardous at even low levels, and has been banned from use in all countries, except in China and Southeast Asia. Keep in mind, US factories cannot use this chemical, but companies CAN manufacture clothing using this chemical if they do so in China. (Ever hear of outsourcing? This is a practice where a manufacturer obtains goods from a foreign supplier.) Another reason to NOT buy clothes made in China!
The list could continue and it doesn’t get any less horrifying. And this is only listing the negatives in relation to our HEALTH.
Consider the environmental consequences, as well as the fact that most of these plants have abhorrent working conditions for their laborers who are continuously dealing with these hazardous toxins (many of the laborers are children).
As I researched this topic for my family, I became so angry that money was more important to these companies than the health and safety of so many people. How can companies, in good conscience, manufacture clothing that is literally dripping in a toxic stew, sickening our children and our environment? And while that is a good question, the reality isn’t changing and the real question is, “What can I do about it?”
What Can I Do About It?
The problem with organic kids clothing is, simply put, a daunting one. My laundry room sees a constant cycle of dirty clothes. And, to be brutally honest, kids are messy and sticky. Buying a pair of organic pants for $50 can be a hard thing to justify when you can ominously predict those pants will have muddy knee stains in no time. You don’t want to purchase a wardrobe for your children that won’t allow them to be children. You don’t want to hover over your children when they’re eating something red and sticky, with an invisible dollar sign hovering over that expensive organic t-shirt…
But the fact remains that how we spend our money is powerful. Choosing to be conscious of companies that exploit children, ignore safety concerns of known carcinogens, and import cheaply made clothing that will flood our landfills – this has great weight and power. We can’t change the world, but we can change ourselves and, in doing so, make a small, significant difference.
Organic Kids Clothes – My Plan of Action
So, organic clothing? In my research and planning, I have come to the conclusion that I can’t always afford to buy ALL organic clothes for my kids. But some types of clothing are more important to keep strictly organic such as underwear, undershirts, pajamas. No compromises there because those are the articles of clothing that spend the most time directly touching our skin. Searching out other natural options, clothing that is fair trade and eco-friendly, finding companies who don’t treat their fabric with toxic chemicals, and avoiding any and all clothes that come out of China or Japan – that is a feasible and more doable option for the other clothes you need in greater quantities. Buying organic undershirts to wear underneath tops that are not organic is a great way to keep the majority of the skin touching chemical free fabric.
(Note: be sure to wash your organic clothing separately from your non-organic clothing!)
My Five Favorite Sources for Organic Kids Clothes
The absolute most affordable option is H&M. They have a surprisingly large selection of organic clothing in baby and children’s sizes. Their organic clothing is made of 100% organic cotton and the patterns and colors are adorable, but trendy – just what you would expect from a hip European outfitter. Keep in mind that only some of their offerings are organic, so make sure to do some searching. Because the prices are so reasonable, these are organic clothes that you can send your kids off to sit in mud puddles without worry.
Here are some of my favorite H & M kid’s organics:
2. Hanna Andersson
Hanna Andersson is another European clothing line known for it’s bright color pairings and graphic, but minimal designs. As with H&M, not all of their clothing is organic, but all of their clothing is OEKO-TEX approved. OEKO-TEX® is a worldwide consistent, independent testing and certification system for raw, semi-finished, and finished textile products at all processing levels, as well as accessory materials used. They test for harmful chemicals, contaminants, and strictly abide by Europe’s more carefully regulated laws regarding what textiles can contain.
Hanna Andersson clothing is definitely a little more pricey, but if you shop a sale it quickly becomes more affordable. I like to stock up on their organic underwear, and my kids exclusively wear Hanna pajamas. I also make some intentional purchases of the more pricey items (such as sweaters or jackets) that I know will last.
These Hanna Andersson picks are definitely not “play in the mud” clothes:
3. Colored Organics
These cute Colored Organics clothes are some that caught my eye:
Pact is a company with a mission and I absolutely love it. They are passionate about empowering impoverished communities and educating people on Fair Trade clothing practices. Their clothing is 100% organic and the fabric is soft and smooth and comfortable. Their children’s sizes go from newborn all the way up to child’s 10/12!
I love these attractive, super-soft baby clothes:
Moms these days are juggling so many responsibilities that the thought of “one more thing” is overwhelming. I feel that way all the time.
It comes down to deciding which things have to be priorities. Of course this decision is different for all of us. When I started researching this topic, I had a feeling of dread that I wasn’t going to like what I was learning, but was compelled to just keep reading. Why? For my kid’s future.
It has really hit home for me – I want my children to live whole and healthy lives. My research made it exceedingly clear that the long-term (and short-term) health effects of the chemicals on our clothing is staggering. Chemical sensitivities, cancer, neurological damage, skin problems…the list goes on and on.
In reality I included only a small amount of the chemicals that are on our children’s clothing in this article. I was afraid of completely overloading you. Please, please, take the time to research this important topic yourself. I can guarantee you will never walk into a clothing store without remembering the day you understood the truth – manufacturers care more about profits than the harm they are knowingly causing to the health of your children!
In this case, ignorance is definitely not bliss.
The Healthy Place team cares about the health of you and your family. We believe in posting articles that give you the opportunity to learn more about factors that are impacting your health (even if we aren’t always able to provide products to meet your needs in this regard). Our owner, Becki O’Brien, is passionate about how chemicals are invading our homes and destroying the health of our children. Look for more articles on this important topic in future weeks!
I’m pretty sure H&M organics still use harmful dyes, anti-wrinkle treatment chemicals, and others. Remember that organic means just that– the cotton was not grown with pesticides. What they do after that is a whole ‘nother bargain and unfortunately most companies aren’t very honest about that! Hanna is a good choice but pretty much only their undies and long johns are organic AND third-party certified to be made with “safer” dyes and treatments. It’s really frustrating!
The deeper you dig the more disturbing, and frustrating, it is. Most people are oblivious to the dangerous chemicals used by the clothing industry. As more people become aware of this area of chemical exposure and start demanding safer options, perhaps manufactures will respond.
Hi Leslie –
I just bought a bunch of onesies etc for my newborn from Hanna Andersson. They were all marked as organic cotton and Oeko 100. Is that what you mean by third party cert? I’m concerned!
Thanks for the terrific guide
I want to to thank you for this fantastic read!! I absolutely enjoyed
every bit of it. I’ve got you book-marked to check out new stuff you post…
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