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Flammable Clothing

“Between 1997 and 2006, more than 4,300 serious burn injuries per year in the United States were associated with clothing. Ages 5–14 had the highest average annual burn injury rate, and ages 25–64 had the lowest rate. There were 120 deaths per year in the United States associated with clothing burns between 1999 and 2004. The death rate for those over 65 was six times the national average” (Hoebel et al, 2010, Fire Technology).

The Federal Flammable Fabrics Act, which came into being in 1953, is the statute which governs clothing flammability. Its purpose is to remove dangerous clothing from the US marketplace. Unfortunately, many clothes are not manufactured in the US, but are made in countries held to much lower standards. Many victims of flammable clothing accidents do not realize that the clothing they were wearing was highly flammable.

The Children’s Sleepwear Standard Act governs sleepwear manufactured for children. The Act mandates certain features (extinguishing ability and burn resistance) be implemented in children’s sleepwear. However, overseas markets are often less strict. Although the Act has decreased the number of accidents and deaths over the years, there is still substantial room for improvement.

If a victim’s clothing catches fire because the material the clothing is made of fails to meet safety standards, a law suit may be filed against the parties involved in the distribution chain, as well as the person responsible for starting the fire or the manufacturer or company that sold the product that resulted in the fire. In such an action the victim must prove:

  • the clothing was defective and/or dangerous because it was unusually or highly flammable
  • the defect in the clothing was directly responsible for the injuries suffered
  • the defendant sold the clothing or material that the clothing was made out of
  • the defect existed at the time of sale by the seller, distributor or manufacturer

Read examples of products recalled for failure to comply with the standards of the Flammable Fabrics Act:

Blair Women’s Chenille Robes Recalled- 12/06/2009

Thousands of Blair’s women’s chenille robes were recalled in April of 2009 for failing to meet safety standards. Numerous reports of the robes catching fire prompted the voluntary recall by the company. Unfortunately, there were six deaths that occurred, including several non-fatal burn injuries. A second recall was issued in June 2009 after the company heard from six of the families of victims who had died.

Fleece Sweatshirts Sold at Kmart Recalled - 11/6/00

Five-Y Clothing Inc. said today it is recalling about 42,000 fleece sweatshirts. These garments, which fail to meet the federal mandatory standards for fabric flammability, could ignite easily and present a serious risk of burn injuries.
Gap Inc. Recalls Flammable Children's Pajamas - 12/9/99

Gap Inc. is voluntarily recalling about 231,000 children's pajamas sold at Gap and Old Navy stores. The pajama sets fail to meet federal children's sleepwear flammability standards. The standards require sleepwear to be flame-resistant, and if the fabric ignites, the flame must self-extinguish. Failure to meet the flammability standards presents a risk of serious burns to children.



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