If You Make, Import, Distribute or Sell Clothing:
According to fire injury data from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), more than 4,000 consumers a year suffer severe burn injuries and an estimated 150 or more die when their clothing ignites from even minimal exposure to ordinary household ignition sources. In most cases, these clothing and apparel items had met the requirements of the federal standard for the flammability of clothing textiles. A long record of burn injury lawsuits has shown that complying with the federal standard does not protect manufacturers, distributors or retailers from severe penalties in court cases involving clothing ignitions.
Actions You Can Take
The Standard for the Flammability of Clothing Textiles, 16 CFR Part 1610, enforced by the CPSC under the Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA), is an absolute minimum standard that is more than 50 years old (it was part of the original FFA passed by Congress in 1953). It was designed primarily to remove only the most dangerous and intensely flammable textiles from the clothing market. The vast majority of textile products subject to the test specified in this standard (also known as the CS-191-53, 45-degree test) pass and are rated "Class 1 normal flammability." This result erroneously implies that they are "safe" to use in clothing.
Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers who want to determine if their products pose an unreasonable risk of fire should assess them according to the test method specified in 16 CFR Parts 1615-1616, known as the "vertical strip test" used in the Children's Sleepwear Flammability Standard. This is a more rigorous test for fabrics used in clothing, with a larger ignition source than general wearing apparel flammability standard 16 CFR Part 1610. If the products you manufacture or sell pass this test, you will have reasonable assurance that they are safer from fire than the typical fabric that is considered "Class 1 normal flammability." Keep complete records of all test results, since CPSC accepts test results from more stringent tests to demonstrate conformance with 16 CFR Part 1610.
Action Item: Test your products to a higher standard of fire safety.
Fabrics that fail the Children's Sleepwear Flammability test method and standard specified in 16 CFR Parts 1615-1616 can be dangerous in many garment and clothing designs. These fabrics should not be sold as clothing or for use in clothing without providing complete consumer information and a legally adequate warning label to inform the ultimate consumer and wearer. Certain garments are known to be high-hazard designs, such as loose-fitting, full-cover and over-the-head designs. This is especially true for adult sleepwear such as nightgowns, robes and housecoats; girl's dresses and children's playwear; t-shirts; or other looser-fitting apparel.
If you choose to accept the risks and potential liability by utilizing flammable fabrics, especially in producing, marketing or selling unsafe garments, you have a legal duty to warn purchasers and consumers of the potential flammability of high-fire-hazard garments. Consumers are not generally aware of the fact that almost all everyday clothing is extremely easy to ignite, and, once ignited, burns with such intensity that the wearer will likely sustain serious burn injury.
An alternate and more demonstrative warning label may better alert consumers. For example: " Warning: This garment, similar to many that are made of cotton and other fabrics used in ordinary clothing, may ignite and burn rapidly if exposed for as little as a few seconds to a flame as small as a birthday candle. The result can be serious burn injury or even death. Please be careful around sources of fire, heat or flame to avoid the possibility of clothing ignition."
1. "Wearing Apparel: Notice of Finding that Flammability Standard or Other Regulation May Be Needed and Institution of Proceedings," Department of Commerce, Office of the Secretary [15 CFR Part 7]. Federal Register, Vol. 33, No. 207, October 23, 1968, p. 15662.
2. "Investigation of Fabrics Involved in Wearing Apparel Fires," American Academy of Pediatrics, Comm. on Accident Prevention, Samuel E. Southard, Chair, in Pediatrics, Vol. 34, November 1964, pp. 728-733.
3. "Flammable Fabrics," Third and Fourth Annual Reports by the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare," FY 1971, published in 1972, and FY 1972, published in 1973 respectively.
4. "Hearings Before the Consumer Subcommittee of the Committee on Commerce, U.S. Senate, First Session on S.1003 to Amend the Flammable Fabrics Act: To Increase The Protection Afforded Consumers Against Injurious Flammable Fabrics," May 3, 4, and 5, 1967. U.S. Govt. Printing Office, 1967, pp. 83-93, 158-161, et al.
5. "LBJ Signs Flammability Act: [both he and] Surgeon Assails It as
6. "Flammable Fabrics Act Protection: Fire Resistants v. Industry Resistance," Huali Chai Mullins and Alexis Panagakos, The George Washington Law Review, March 1971, Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 608-632.
7. "Clothing ANPR - Comments on 16 CFR Part 1610, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission," by Steven M. Spivak, PhD, Chartered Textile Technologist, Fellow of the Textile Institute and Professor Emeritus, Department of Fire Protection Engineering, University of Maryland, November 12, 2002, submission to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission on ANPR to Amend the Standard for the Flammability of Clothing Textiles, 16 CFR Part 1610. http://www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/foia03/pubcom/clothing.PDF.
8. "Comments on Standard for Flammability of Clothing Textiles; Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Federal Register, September 12, 2002," Donald Bliss, President, National Association of State Fire Marshals (November 18, 2002), submission to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission on ANPR to Amend the Standard for the Flammability of Clothing Textiles, 16 CFR Part 1610. http://www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/foia03/pubcom/clothing.PDF.
9. "Clothing ANPR," letter from retired CPSC Chief Engineer for Fire Safety James F. Hoebel (November 12, 2002), submission to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission on ANPR to Amend the Standard for the Flammability of Clothing Textiles, 16 CFR Part 1610. http://www.cpsc.gov/library/foia/foia03/pubcom/clothing.PDF.
Approved by the NASFM Board of Directors, December 2004.
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