Can you wash out the chemicals and pesticides in baby clothes? (for example, the pesticides in non-organic cotton or the formaldehyde (sp?) used as a finisher)
There is this blog/website called "Kitchen Stewardship" (about traditional foods, green, lower chemicals, etc) and she did this whole long post about flame retardants in children's PJ's. From what I can recall (and this is just going off memory, so don't quote me), she concluded that both hanging them (as opposed to folding them and putting them in a drawer) and washing them would help get the flame retardants out.
My two cents on flame retardants, is that they make me so uncomfortable (both the idea, and also, I think I can literally smell them) that when I have children, I am hoping to not buy things with flame retardants, though I'm sure I won't be able to be perfect.
Now, I realize you aren't talking about flame retardants! But you'd think those tactics would help. The way this woman (Kitchen Stewardship owner) figured out this, was by reading the labels on the pajamas, and it warns you that washing and/or hanging may lower the anti-flammability.
I am in your camp though, that these things worry me. Hubby and I want to get pregnant soon (though we are waiting due to finances this year), and I have been looking at the things around me, especially in the bedroom. There are certain things I DEFINITELY want to have taken care of before getting pregnant and having a newborn in that room. One is that there is some kind of horrible chemical smell coming off of my curtains, and it gets worse during the day when the sun hits them. I figure it's either a flame retardant, or some other chemical. They are thick and made to block light, so I only have so many choices, and my budget is tight. (it isn't the smell of vinyl though). But I'd like to replace them so a baby isn't exposed to that all day, while sleeping.
The other is that our "fake wood" particle board furniture from Walmart is giving off a smell, and I know there is formaldehyde in that composite wood furniture (because it's in pretty much all, whether cheap or expensive/designer) (note: another word for this stuff is "wood veneer"...it's basically stuff that isn't solid wood). I think Ikea has taken steps to reduce or eliminate bad chemicals in their particle board furniture, but then there's the question of.....what chemical did they use to replace the bad ones with, and is that some kind of new chemical that is even worse? Sometimes they will take out a bad chemical, so they can say it's not there, and then replace it with a chemical that is virtually indistinguishable from the original, in the chemical composition, etc.
I read that Walmart has pledged to no longer buy anything with certain common flame retardants (so this would apply to curtains, fabrics, clothes, etc) by either end of this year, or end of 2012. And that is big, because the U.S. has not made those chemicals illegal yet, and they are super-common, but Walmart is trying to use their power for good, and lead the way. However, I'm guessing it'll become a fight of the manufacturers claiming not to use it, then Walmart finding the chemicals in there anyways, etc. So while it's something, the pledge, it's hard to hold manufacturers accountable.
So basically, I'd like to find older solid wood furniture on Craigslist or something for our bedroom, new curtains that are chemical free, and then of course I'll try to make the baby's linens and PJ's and onesies as natural as possible.
One word of warning: we recently were looking for new sheets. I decided that it was more important to look for sheets without chemicals added, then to go with organic cotton. I couldn't necessarily find sheets that claimed to be "chemical free." One reviewer on the Target organic sheets said that it's great that the cotton's organic, but unfortunately the sheets were sprayed with something, because she got a rash from them that she gets sometimes with chemicals, so she returned them. I finally settled on a non-organic cotton sheet that wasn't "wrinkle free" (read: Teflon), and didn't seem to have any kind of sateen or coating.
But I wish it was easier to find curtains that I knew were "chemical free." People are so quick to label things organic, but I am worried about what's sprayed on there afterwards, not where they source the cotton from. I guess it's common for factories to spray chemicals on the fabric, to make stitching easier.
If anyone is more knowledgable about this, please send us in the right direction! I would love a company that can tell me exactly what's in these textiles, not just use a word like "organic" or just say "bamboo=GREEN!!!!" I am trying to AVOID chemicals, and no one seems to understand that in the textile business. They are moreso just occupied with labelling something as green and leaving it at that, so it's more earth-focused than people-safe focused.
Sorry so long! And sorry I can't be of much help. I am kinda thinking that when I have a baby, I'll just try to keep everything cotton, organic if I can afford it, and hope for the best. But no crazy PJ's that are synthetic.....just basic, cheap, natural cotton, and hope that if there's anything in there, it'll wash out with laundry soap. I have the sense that chemicals would cling to synthetic fabrics better than cotton, so maybe washing cotton would help. That is just my guess, could be wrong. I notice smells cling to synthetics more, and cotton tends to breathe better. So I'm hoping it will breathe out the chemicals.
But in terms of the question of, "are people actually exposed to the pesticides/fungicides from non-organic cotton?"...I have tried googling that, and couldn't find an answer, so I just gave up and started focusing my efforts on the other bad chemicals. I figure that the later in the production phase a chemical is added, the more likely I'll be exposed to it from the finished product, so that's why I don't worry as much about pesticides with textiles.
I think the most important time to avoid this stuff is pregnancy and the baby stage, and then toddler if you can afford/handle it. That is where I'll focus most of my efforts, because that is when the brain/body are developing most quickly. So I'll buy better clothes for my babies than my toddlers, if budget is an issue. And so on.