Scientific Advisory Services, in New York offers expert witness testimony and consulting to insurance companies, municipalities, government agencies and the legal profession involving human factors Standards Engineering
The Journal of the Standards Engineering Society
MAY/JUNE 1993 | VOLUME 45, NUMBER 3


THE FLAMMABLE FABRICS ACT:
AN UNREASONABLY DANGEROUS ACT

Dr. C. J. Abraham, FRSC, FTI, FAIC, DEE, PE
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• The Flammable Fabrics Act: An Unreasonably Dangerous Act
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Absorbing and Dissipating Forces

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INTRODUCTION

One of man's greatest friends, fire can also be his worst enemy - at times, a vicious and destructive element with sudden and awesome effects. Each day, in any number of situations, we are surrounded by the potential danger of uncontrolled fire. Of considerable concern is the way that fire attacks not just the environment around us, but the very clothes we wear. This danger is exacerbated by highly flammable textile products. The greatest tragedy is that the burn injuries resulting from the ignition of wearing apparel need not be as extensive as they are and, in many instances, are avoidable.

Following auto accidents and falls, fire is the third leading cause of accidental death and injury in the United States. Over the last decade, we have seen a steady decline in fire deaths. This is primarily due to the fact that apartments and single-family dwellings are now required to have fire alarms. Another reason for the decrease in fire fatalities is the reduction in the number of people who smoke. However, even with this decrease, statistics have shown that most fires are caused by materials related to smoking such as matches, lighters and cigarettes.

A thorough analysis of fatal or near fatal fires has shown that, in approximately 80% of those accidents reported some textile or other material, such as paper, was the first to ignite. These include: carpets, mattresses, upholstered furniture, etc., and results in the destruction of property, loss of life, and burn injuries. Although wearing apparel maybe initially ignited, a fire of major proportions does not usually result and, therefore, is not counted as a statistic in fire-related accidents. Since clothing-related fires are normally small in nature, they generally do not require the aid of firefighters. Therefore, most of the fatalities and injuries caused by such fires are not reported.

The agency which is responsible for creating standards and gathering statistics on high risk items in the United States is the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). In the late 70's, the Commission had placed flame-retardant clothing on its priority list, ranking these materials seventh in the need for stronger regulations. It initiated a program of gathering information with the assistance of 119 strategically located Emergency Room Departments of hospitals throughout the United States. This was done to determine the contribution to death or injury by various consumer products. Unfortunately, budgetary restraints have curtailed this activity. The validity of current data reported by the CPSC, on an annual basis, is therefore, questionable.

In spite of the above, in the years that the program was in place, the CPSC was able to determine that as far as ignition of clothing was concerned, there were two (2) groups of the general population which were at highest risk: those who had restricted mobility, and those who worked closely with fire. As to the group with limited movement, this included the very young, the very old, and the handicapped. Among those at risk in the occupational categories were metallurgical workers, firefighter, chemical and petroleum workers, utility workers, and kitchen help. Generally, the average adult is at low risk when any of his/her clothing or wearing apparel is ignited. These people can usually react rationally and quickly enough to extinguish the fire and minimize their burn injuries.

According to the Flammable Fabrics Act of 1967, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Johnson, there should be mandatory standards available to protect high-risk groups in the population by mandating the use of flame-retardant fabrics. In 1972, the U. S. Department of Commerce implemented the Children's Sleepwear Standard, inclusive of sizes 0-6X. In 1974 a similar Standard covering sizes 7-14 was introduced. At that time, the Department of Commerce recognized the need for further mandatory standards covering children's outerwear. It also recommended some form of reduced flammability-type fabrics for the public at large, since it is very difficult to differentiate between clothing being used by senior citizens and the general population. Those efforts were abandoned due to the intense lobbying efforts of the textile and retail industries in the U.S.. Currently, we have a very weak Flammability Standard, CS191-53 which covers all items of wearing apparel except for the aforementioned Children's Sleepwear Standards.

Insofar as occupational apparel is concerned, most industries have taken it upon themselves, with the prompting of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to implement voluntary standards for clothing worn to protect the work force. Said standards include those set forth by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The major complaint by the users of flame-retardant and flame-resistant wearing apparel is the lack of comfort for both short and extended periods of time.

The purpose of this paper is to review both the legislative history and the current state-of-the-art-of-technology in the area of flame-retardant wearing apparel for populations at risk and the availability of flame-retardant and fire-resistant treatments which, for the most part, do not threaten the environment. A change in the existing flammability standard is also recommended in order to realistically evaluate and properly predict the flammability characteristics of wearing apparel.

BACKGROUND OF THE FLAMMABLE FABRICS ACT

On June 30, 1953, Congress enacted the Flammable Fabrics Act. At that time, the Act eliminated the manufacture, offering for sale, or sale of any kind of article or wearing apparel that was "so highly flammable as to be dangerous when worn by individuals."1 The reason why the statute was enacted was primarily due to a series of tragic deaths that occurred in the mid '40s. There were too many fires involving children wearing long rayon pile cowboy chaps or brushed rayon sweaters were known as "torches" or "exploding" sweaters2.

The test standard became known as CS 191-53 after it was adopted with the approval of 65% of the textile industry in accordance with the Department of Commerce procedures.3 The standard or test was developed by an industry research committee of the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC), and sponsored by the National Bureau of Standards. The committee was funded in its research by the National Retail Dry Goods Association and conducted its work in conjunction with U.S. Testing Company, which manufactured the testing machines. At the present rime, U.S. Testing still manufactures and sells the same machine originally employed in the standard.

The objective of Standard CS 191-53 was to attain some measure of wearing apparel flammability which would be useful to rule out all of the dangerous fabrics, and allow for the manufacture and sale of fabrics that were not dangerously flammable. The initial flammability test provided in CS 1910-53 required the use of 2x6 inch strips of fabric. The test then consisted of measuring the burning time (in seconds) when the test piece was mounted at a 45 degree angle in a specially designed apparatus. Flame was by a Bunsen burner to the exposed face of the fabric for one second and if the flame spread was more than seven seconds to a point five inches along the fabric, the material would be classified as having "normal" flammability. If the flame spread was less than four seconds, it would be classified as "rapid and intense" burning and those fabrics with a flame spread of four to seven seconds were rated as having "intermediate" flammability.

Prior to the termination of the yearlong waiting period, which was required for passage of the Act,4 the textile industry notified Congress that an annual production of 250 million yards of fabric would be barred if the four-second time period was kept as part of the Standard. The textile industry made immediate efforts to amend the Commercial Standard through legislation. Baltic Mills, of Baltic, Connecticut represented 40-50% of the total production of sheer organdy. A similar product produced by Ponemah Mills, of Taftville, Connecticut represented 25% of the sheer-cotton production. In both instances, those fabrics did not pass the four-second requirement. The industry easily convinced the legislature to lower the burning time from four seconds to three-and-a-half seconds so that the sheer apparel would be able to pass the test. This reduction in burning time enabled the two Connecticut companies to continue to manufacture the highly flammable fabrics and maintain employment of personnel. In 1954, Congress enacted the Portell Amendment. Senator William Portell of Connecticut was the Chairman of the Subcommittee of Business and Consumer Interests of the Senate Commerce Committee at that time.5

After a 10 year hiatus, the Federal Trade Commission took the initiative in proposing an amendment to the 1953 Flammable Fabrics Act. The proposal would have extended the definition of wearing apparel to cover infants' receiving blankets since the blankets that were sold at that time were dangerously flammable.6 The proposal was made to add blankets to the Act as well as to include all bedding. Again, industry protested and the Commission did not proceed in promulgating any additional amendments.

Although the Flammable Fabrics Act of 1953 resulted in keeping much of the extremely flammable clothing out of the retail stores, the Flammability Standard established under the Act was not satisfactory. The National Fire Protection Association stated that the CS 191-53 Standard was imprecise and a misleading measure of flammability. The defects were so serious that Congressman Halpern, in 1967 stated, "Possibly even worse than the existing of such new material is the fact that because the 1953 Act does exist, people are given a false sense of security, inferring that anything now manufactured is free from the dangers of flashflammability"7. The Chairman of NFPA's Committee on Wearing Apparel stated, "To put the issue in the bluntest and simplest terms possible, exceptionally flammable fabrics are not the real problem at all... with very few exceptions, the clothing being ignited consists of everyday articles that must be considered of normal, not exceptional flammability."8

Study after study documented the fact that all clothing that was involved in burn incidents had consistently passed the CS 191-53 Standard. The American Academy of Pediatrics examined 124 samples of wearing apparel that were involved in 84 such fires. All of these 124 samples passed the CS 191-53 test and were declared safe for interstate commerce.9 Although over 99% of all fabrics marketed in the U.S. passed the CS 191-53 test, industry continued to oppose any amendments in the Act. The American Textile Manufacturers Institute's Committee on Flammability and the American Textile Manufacturers Institute opposed changes, arguing that:

  1. More data was needed.
  2. Negligence or carelessness was the principal cause of burn injuries and deaths.
  3. Any changes would produce an economic crisis.
  4. There was not enough chemical material to treat anywhere near the total production of wearing apparel.
An argument against industry's position was stated succinctly by Congressman Quie in 1967 during the House Hearings10: "Even if the cost is a deterrent, even if the American texture seems overly stiff to some people for some uses, this lifesaving material should be made available to the public.

"I believe that our technology can and should develop better and cheaper processes for producing flame-retardant fabrics. It is too bad that lives are lost, people of all ages suffer and property is destroyed for the sake of saving the money it would take to properly and effectively protect the public."

In addition to the procedural safeguards associated with the CS 191-53

Flammability Standard, there was extraordinary division and competition of authority among the various agencies. The Department of Commerce and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare investigated the deaths, injuries and economic losses involving flammable fabrics. The Federal Trade Commission was responsible for enforcement and the Department of Treasury was responsible for the jurisdiction over the shipment of imported products from foreign countries. The lack of cooperation among the agencies manifested itself when each supplied its own secretaries and issued separate reports following inter-agency meetings.

In 1970, the Department of Commerce instituted initial proceedings relating to children's wearing apparel.11 Preliminary findings by the Secretary stated that provision of such a proposed flammability standard is:

  1. Needed to adequately protect the public against unreasonable risk of the occurrence of fire leading to death, injury, or significant property damage;
  2. Reasonable, technologically practical, and appropriate; and
  3. Limited to such fabrics, related materials, or products which would have been determined to present such unreasonable risks".12
Again, strong opposition came from the American Textile Manufacturers Institute. Their arguments have been consistent from 1953 to the present time. In fact, in 1969, after the Commerce Department Secretary published the notice for wearing apparel, the textile industry argued that:
  1. The present products were adequate to protect the consumer.
  2. The changes were not needed.
  3. Consumers would not pay for fire retardancy.
  4. Some unfortunate people were not careful of their own person.
  5. Until such time as technology enables the textile-apparel industry to produce foolproof apparel..."
  6. The limited sample of data was not an appropriate base for national projection.
  7. Information was not adequate for valid determination.
In summary, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute concluded that the publication of notice was "ill-conceived, ill-timed, and ill-prepared", the proceedings should be suspended, and the notice withdrawn.

In May 1969, the National Advisory Committee agreed that the Department of Commerce should set flammability standards for children's sleepwear and girls' dresses.13 Six months later, Assistant Secretary Tribus, in a memorandum to members of the Committee, stated14:

"Although there are strong feelings that only a requirement for non-burning fabrics can achieve any significant reduction in accidents, there is also the consideration that requiring complete fire retardant may put too much of an economic burden on the manufacturer."

In a compromise, the Assistant Commerce Secretary suggested:

  1. the creation of a standard for children's nightwear which standard would encompass "slow-burning" requirements, and be more stringent that the CS 191-53 Standard;
  2. that garments which passed the minimum standard might be labeled, "Warning - Keep Away From Fire! This Garment Meets Minimum Standards for Flammability;" and
  3. that the garments which passed the higher standard would be labeled, "This Garment Is Flame Retardant -Meets Federal Standards For Flame Resistance."
The labeling was specifically written into 4(a) of the amended Act as being included in the concept of "a new or amended Flammability Standard or other regulations".15 The standard was so phrased that only consumers who were willing to pay the additional monies would safeguard their children from the dangers of flammable apparel. This was offensive to many parents. Studies have shown, at that particular time, that low-income or welfare families would be continually exposed to the greatest hazards of fire and would be the least likely to purchase flame-retardant apparel. As a result of proposing what amounted to a double standard, there would continue to be on the market non-flame-retardant nightwear allowing the consumers to purchase non-flame-retardant children's nightwear. It was also concluded that no amount of warning which the adult might understand and no precaution taken by the adult as a result of such warning would be much help when a young child was alone. Simply providing a selection of non-flammable materials to the public would do little to curb burn injuries to children. Investigation by the National Advisory Committee on data obtained from 353 cases that were supplied by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare indicated that children up to six years of age were injured more often from power fires than members of any other age group. In addition, the total number of garments involved in power fires, sleepwear, underwear and dresses is 2.5 to 3.9 times as high.16

What was even more significant was that the Department of Commerce conducted tests on the remains of 230 garments recovered from 355 cases. It concluded that "none of the tested garments exceeded the rapid and intense burn limits established by the existing Standard CS191-53, Flammability Of Clothing Textiles".17

INADEQUACY OF CS 191-53

Passage of the 1967 Amendments to the Flammable Fabrics Act did not involve wearing apparel and was indicative of the general dissatisfaction with the flammability Standard that was originally created. In fact, William M. Segall, who was Chairman of the Committee on the "Information Council On Fabric Flammability", stated in the 1968 proceedings that18:

"The 45-degree test, which primarily measures speed of flame spread, sufficed for discrimination between conventional fabrics and the "highly dangerous" fabrics, such as "torch sweaters", against which the original Flammable Fabrics Act was directed. But if more precise discrimination is to be required, it is possible that other burning characteristics may have to be accurately measured".

Another problem was brought out by Mr. Segall in 1967 was that the testing of a sample of a single fabric for flammability characteristics has little relationship to how the fabric is utilized in real life. There was a suggestion that a garment should be tested under the conditions of anticipated exposure. It was also recommended that whole garments rather than single samples of fabrics should be tested and that combination garments including the outside garment and underwear should be tested at the same time.

FLAME-RETARDANT WEARING APPAREL

During the Congressional hearings on the 1967 Amendments, the opinion expressed by the Bureau of Textiles and Furs was supported by the Federal Trade Commission. The Bureau stated that, "So far as feasible, all children's clothing should be made flame-proof by applying a chemical finish to all combustible fabrics by having such clothing made of nonflammable material".19 At the same Senate and House hearings, Dr. Winslow stated, "If sufficient demand and money were made available, significant control of flammability of synthetic and natural fibers could be effected within five years and... the cost of an acceptable process would decrease rapidly once developed for commercial use".20 The major barrier at the 1967 and 1968 hearings for changes in the Flammable Fabrics Act was not the need for technology or knowledge, but cost. Secretary Tribus said, "Manufacturers are reluctant to make what they think people will be reluctant to buy".21

It was known in 1968 and 1969 that the Federal government had played a major role in creating a market for special-purpose non-flammable uses arising out of military, aviation and space products.22 The initial Federal regulation regarding flammable fabrics testing also stimulated industry to seek ways of advancing the technology of flame-retardant and flameproof fabrics. What was recommended in 1968 and 1969 was that the Department of Commerce seek to develop flammability standards which would take advantage of the recent developments involving flame-retardant and flame-proof chemicals and, at the same time, offer incentives to industry for further developments.

THE CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION

In 1972, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA). The CPSC is a 5-member independent regulatory agency. Its sole purpose is to protect the public against unreasonable risk of injury associated with consumer products. Under 15(b) businesses under the CPSC jurisdiction must report to the agency all instances in which they have received information regarding defects in their products that could create substantial hazards to the consumer. In addition, the Consumer Products Improvements Act requires that all companies must report to the agency instances in which they receive certain information including but not limited to:

  1. information that their products fail to comply with voluntary standards adopted by the CPSC in lieu of not issuing a mandatory product safety rule, or
  2. their products could create unreasonable risk of serious injury or death.
The author knows of no manufacturers complying with this.

If a specific model of a consumer product is the subject of three or more law suits involving death or "grievous bodily injury" within 24 months, the CPSC requires manufacturers to report those incidents to the Agency. The new 37 of the CPSA results in a compromise between the consumer and industry. In point of fact, however, industry representatives continued to oppose both the House and Senate bills.23

In spite of the CPSC's efforts, there was more input from industry than from consumers. Because of the dissatisfaction from various political arenas, the Carter Administration considered abolishing the Agency. When Ronald Reagan was elected, one of his first actions was an attempt to abolish the Agency. When Congress objected, the administration made a significant cut in the Agency's staff and funding. This resulted in the cancellation of a large number of product analyses and over a 75% reduction in Agency office area.24 The Agency did not undergo any significant changes during the Bush Administration. As a result of the earlier changes, the CPSC became the smallest of the Federal Health and Safety Agencies. Nonetheless, it has records of more than 15,000 types of consumer products that have caused approximately more than 29 million injuries and 22,000 deaths annually.

The CPSC has been involved in the creation of standards for child-resistant container closures and flame-resistant sleepwear. These standards have been directly responsible for the reduction of injuries to children. However, from 1981 to the present time, the CPSC has been active in 29 formal regulatory actions. However, 79% of those actions were non-safety related products which were exempt from regulation and all of those proceedings were withdrawn or terminated. Only 6-of-29 formal regulatory actions were safety related. These resulted in new requirements imposed by the Agency or banning of tine products.

Attempts were made to educate consumers through informational campaigns. However, that type of approach failed to reach low-income and illiterate consumers who lacked the ability or time to respond to safety messages. It should also be noted that no commissioner associated with the CPSC has had a product safety, consumer protection, or technical background necessary to implement the objectives and responsibilities of the agency. Appointments of the commissioners have had more to do with their political connections than with their qualifications.

Industry has continued from 1972 to the present time to vigorously oppose any regulatory initiative by the CPSC. In fact, Congress barred exclusive reliance on the Agency's standards as an indicator of reasonable safety. However, despite compliance with the general flammability standard, the retailer in the case of Gryc vs. Dayton Hudson was forced to pay one million dollars in punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.25 A more recent case involved an infant wearing a tee shirt manufactured by the Union Underwear Company. A two and one-half million dollar award was obtained by a jury verdict.26

The author has been involved in many flammable fabric cases over the last 23 years. In all of these instances, apparel was in compliance but compensatory damages were obtained in the high six figure and million dollar range. This indicates that although the manufacturer might comply with the Consumer Product Safety rules or other voluntary standards under the Agency's regulations, it will not relieve any manufacturer from liability under tort.

Because of the influence and lobbying of the textile industry on a worldwide basis, Commercial Standard 16CFR-1610 (formerly CS-191-53) is the accepted standard in the U.S. for wearing apparel. Other than the Standards created for children's nightwear, the Consumer Products Safety Commission has not done anything to change the original Flammable Fabrics Act created by Congress on June 30,1953.

FABRIC FLAMMABILITY STANDARDS AND CLOTHING

The method used in the U.S. for testing the fabric flammability of clothing is Commercial Standard 16CFR-1610 which was formally CS191-53. It is a 45 degree test. It is a pass/fail test which determines if fabric ignition occurs within one second and the time for the fabric to burn 12.7 millimeters at a 45 degree angle if ignition does occur. It should be noted that 99.99% of all wearing apparel sold in the U.S. passes the test.

In contrast to the 45 degree test used in the U.S., the U.K. relies on the use of a vertical sample test (BS5438:1976). This test is much more complex than the U.S. test and determines the ignition time of the fabric up to seconds versus the U.S. test which is up to a one-second exposure. It also measures the extent of vertical and horizontal flame spread, and, if needed, the time to burn 75 millimeters horizontally and both 300 and 600 millimeters vertically from the point of flame impingement. No pass/fail criteria are given with the BS 5438:1976 test, and no general standard for textile fabrics used in clothing exists in the U.K..

Sleepwear flammability standards are enforced in both the U.S. and the U.K.. Both standards use vertical (90 degrees) test procedures. However, they differ in many ways. While the U.S. standardsFF3-71 andFF5-74 cover sleepwear in sizes 0-6X and 7-14 respectively, the U.K. standard BS5722:1979 applies to adult as well as children's sleepwear. U.S. standards require smaller samples, more rigorous conditioning and washing procedures, a small flame of methane instead of butane and a shorter flame impingement time. They also require more stringent pass/fail criteria than the U.K. test. The U.S. and U.K. Sleepwear Flammability Standards both mandate all covered sleepwear and must be self-extinguishing.

The most significant variable in the CS 191-53 test is the ignition requirements for the pass/fail criteria. Initially one has to determine if the fabric ignites in 1 second. The sample passes if it does not ignite within that 1 second. No further flammable testing is required after that. If it does ignite, the burning of the sample must take more than 2.5 seconds to burn six inches on a plain surface or 6.0 seconds to burn six inches if it is a raised surface fabric. Again, 99.99% of all wearing apparel sold in the U.S. passes this test and 100% of all people (adults and children) burned wore garments that passed the same test.

In contrast, the U.K. test requires one to determine the ignition time up to 10 seconds and the extent of both the vertical and horizontal flame spread on a 220 x 170 mm sample. If necessary, one would also record the time to burn 75 millimeters horizontally and both 300 and 600 mm vertically on 670 x 170 mm sample. There is no pass/fail criteria.

Based upon the thousands of flammability tests performed by the author and his associates and the injuries caused by the wearing apparel involved with the 16CFR-1610 test, one can easily conclude that the testing requirements are inadequate for their foreseeable use and expo-sure.27,28,29 One example which demonstrates this is part of a material which was not ignited within one second. However, once the material did ignite by extending the ignition time, it burned rapidly with high intensity. Thus, one can see that if the flame source is sufficiently large, it can overcome the initial one second resistance and the material will then burn with characteristic properties. These flammable characteristics are not required to be measured in the U.S. if the material did not ignite within 1 second. This factor becomes important in many situations where individuals are seriously burned because they are not aware of the fact that their clothing has ignited or is on fire until it is too late. Using this information and the various flammability tests available on a worldwide basis, the author of this paper is recommending that a compromise procedure be used in measuring the following:

  1. Measurement of time for ignition.
  2. Hazardous characteristics such as melting, dripping and flammability of dripping material.
  3. Flame spread time (independent of ignition time).
  4. Further, the author proposes that the compromise test procedure must be performed in the vertical (90 degree) identical to the fixture, described in the testing of Children's Sleepwear Standard DOC FF3-71(16CFR-15) and DOC FF5-74(16CFR-116).
PROPOSED TEST FOR WEARING APPAREL FLAMMABILITY
  1. Scope
    This proposed Standard shall apply to methods for testing the flammability of textiles for use in wearing apparel and shall also establish classes of flammability. The Standard will also set forth the requirements which textiles shall need to be so classified.
  2. Flammability Test Apparatus
    The Flammability Test Apparatus shall consist of a draft-proof ventilated chamber enclosing a standardized ignition, medium, sample rack (vertical), and automatic timing device. The Flammability Test Apparatus should be identical to the one in the Children's Sleepwear Standard, DOC FF3-71 (16CFR-15).
  3. Number and Size of Specimens
    Six specimens, each measuring 3-1/2" x 10" shall be obtained for each test (Marking of Test Specimens - Test specimens, each measuring 3-1/2" x 10" shall be measured and marked at each inch.)
  4. Pre-Conditioning of Textiles
    The pre-conditioning requirements are identical to DOC FF3-71.
  5. Test Procedure
    1. After purging the fuel line, the gas (butane) shall be ignited and the flame shall be adjusted to a length of one inch measured from its tip to the opening of the gas nozzle. For both fabrics having a raised fiber surface and those without the raised fiber surface, the mechanical starting lever shall be used. The timing of the ignition time shall be recorded up to five seconds. If the fabric ignites within that time, the time of flame spread shall be recorded and it shall be noted whether the base is ignited or fused to a point where damage is apparent from either side of the specimen. If the flame is self-extinguishing, that result will be recorded as ignited but extinguished. The time of flame spread shall be recorded for each inch pre-measured and marked on the test specimen up to 20 seconds after ignition. If the specimen melts, the flaming characteristics of the melt will be noted.
    2. If the 10-inch specimen does not ignite within five seconds, the material will be considered flame retardant or flame resistant.
  6. Recording. Reporting Test Results
    1. Time of flame spread of textiles shall be reported at two, four, six, eight and 10 inches up to 20 seconds after ignition.
    2. The time for ignition up to five seconds shall be recorded.
    3. A description of the flammable characteristics of the melt will be noted.
  7. Classification of Flammability
    1. Normal Flammability
      Class 1. This class shall include all textiles which show a time of flame spread of 20 seconds or more when tested after ignition. These textiles may be considered relatively slow burning.
      Class 2. This class shall include all textiles which show a time of flame spread of 10 to 19 seconds. This does not include a time measured for ignition. These textiles maybe considered moderately flammable.
      Class 3. This class shall include all textiles which show a time of flame spread from6 to 10 seconds. This does not include a time measured for ignition. These textiles are considered relatively flammable.
    2. Rapid Burning:
      This general class shall include all textiles which are considered dangerously flammable and recognized as being unsuitable for clothing because of their rapid burning.
      Class 4. This class shall include all textiles which show a time of flame spread of 5 seconds or less, which does not include the time for ignition.
Since 99.99% of all wearing apparel does not ignite within one second, the increased time for ignition (five seconds) is important in that it allows one to determine if prolonged ignition is necessary to ignite a fabric. A large number of accidents have occurred where individuals were not aware that their garment ignited and was on fire. If wearing apparel is designed so that it can withstand an ignition source for several seconds, it will give an individual an opportunity to react to an emergency or dangerous condition.

The extended time for observation of the burning characteristics of the textile will allow one to determine whether the textile is hard to ignite, initially burns slowly and then burns rapidly, or whether the textile burns at an even rate or is unsuitable for clothing. In many cases evaluated by the author, individuals who were injured were wearing garments which were difficult to ignite but, once ignited, burned rapidly with high intensity.

Measurement of such hazardous characteristics as melting, dripping and flammability of the dripping material is of utmost importance. Although many garments ignite and burn slowly, when their melt is on fire it can easily ignite other parts of the individuals wearing apparel. This is a dangerous characteristic that must be evaluated and eventually controlled. The fact that the test is performed in the vertical (90 degree) direction rather than a 45 degree angle, places the textile specimen in a position similar to that of the individual wearing the material and thus makes the test more - consistent with reality. In addition, the fact that the specimen is ignited on the bottom edge also contributes to a better understanding of how easily the fabric does ignite and burn.

CONCLUSION

In 1972, President Nixon signed into law the Consumer Product Safety Act which created a new Federal Agency. The CPSC came into being on May 14, 1973. The CPSA provided that many consumer product safety regulatory functions originally assigned to other Federal agencies would be transferred to the CPSC. This transfer occurred on May 14, 1973 and included in the transfer to the CPSC were all of the responsibilities of the Flammable Fabrics Act.

The CPSA specifies that product safety risks of injury which can be eliminated or reduced to a sufficient extent by action taken under the Flammable Fabrics Act may be regulated by the Commission only in accordance with the provisions of those Acts. However, the Commission has the authority to regulate flammable fabrics pursuant to the provisions of the CPSA and may find it necessary to do so in the future. The CPSA states that all orders, determinations, rules and regulations which were in effect when the Flammable Fabrics Act was transferred shall continue in effect according to their terms until change by the Commission or through other legal means. On September 14, 1973, the CPSC has instituted an enforcement policy for the Flammable Fabrics Act which supplanted the enforcement policy under which the Federal Trade Commission had operated. The CPSC stated that in order to enforce the Act vigorously, expeditiously and without compromise, the Commission would use in each case any and all appropriate enforcement procedures available under the Act. In some cases, the existence of standards stimulated technological development. The anticipation of the enforcement of the Children's Sleepwear Standard appeared to motivate the textile industry to develop new fibers and fabrics which could meet the standard. The technology was available at the time of the promulgation of the Standard but not commercialized. The Sleepwear Standard did influence the type of fibers utilized by the textile industry. Before the standard was promulgated, most sleepwear garments were produced from cotton. Currently, most sleepwear in the affected size range are produced from man-made fibers. The reason for this shift was based on both technological and economic grounds.

Significant benefits could have resulted from the enforcement of the flammability standards issued by authority of the CPSC. Additionally, application of the experience gained up to the present time should have been valuable to the Commission so that it would be able to modify and create more stringent requirements for the flammability test of wearing apparel. But, it has not. In fact, the Commission recently published a petition for comments regarding the relaxation of the present standards.30,31

Accumulated statistically valid data on burn deaths, injuries, and economic losses is the responsibility of the CPSC. Much of this did not exist when the Flammability Standard was created in 1953. However, the flammability standard for wearing apparel must be upgraded to encompass current technology.

Existing data suggests that products of combustion from treated textiles by current methods may be more toxic, and include more smoke than those from untreated textiles. However, it is anticipated that if the proposed standard is adopted, that much less, if any, of such treated textiles will become involved in smoldering or flaming combustion. Therefore, the hazard from the combustion products should be minimal and not as an important factor as the textile industry is attempting to make of it.

The CPSC is well aware of the technology developed from the initial enactment of the Flammable Fabrics Act. It has changed considerably so that an upgrading of 16CFR-1610 should be made with or without the cooperation of the textile industry. The author's proposed testing method for wearing apparel would provide for a better understanding of the flammability characteristics of textiles. The recommendations set forth are in outline form and not detailed as those required for a standard. However, the outline is sufficiently specific so as to produce the information necessary for designing and manufacturing wearing apparel.

The recommended test will also allow companies to comply with the five criteria set forth in the standard from normal flammability to rapid burning and will provide that the wearing apparel bear the appropriate tag or label in accordance with its flammability characteristics. These tags or labels will be positioned in a conspicuous location on the garment placing the consumer on notice of the flammability characteristics of the wearing apparel.

The modifications of the Flammability Standard as suggested by the author should result in a significant reduction in burn injuries to children, geriatrics and the population at large.


References

1 Act of June 30,1953, Ch. 164,67 Stat. Ill, 3
2 Baker, "Flammability Testing: Recent Developments in Testing and Law Enforcement", American Dyestuff Kept. March 30,1964, p.28
3 Baker, "The Pyrotechnics of Textile Materials," Modern Textiles Magazine, 1968, pp. 57,58
4 1953 Act, 12
5 16C.F.R., 302.1-302.14
6 110 Cong. Rec. 3803, February 28,1964
7 113 Cong. Rec. 12330, September 21,1967
8 Segall, "Clothing Fires: A Tragedy of Continuing Ignorance", Fire Journal, July, 1966
9 American Acad. Pediatrics, Com. on Ace. Prev., Report: Investigation of Fabrics Involved in Wearing Apparel Fires, 34 Pediatrics 728 (1964)
10 Hearing on H.R. 5654, Before the Subcommittee on Commerce and Finance of the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, 90th Cong., 1st Sess., 17 (House Hearings)
11 35 Fed. Reg. 1019, January 24,1970
12 ICFF 1969 Proceedings, 7.7(b)
13 Minutes of the National Advisory Committee, dated May 2,1969, p. 4
14 Assistant Secretary Tribus, Memorandum for Members of the National Advisory Committee, October 29,1969, p. 1
15 16U.S.C1193(a)
16 35 Fed. Reg. 1019, January 24,1970
17 ibid
18 Segall, Annual Report of Testing Committee, in ICFF Proceedings 79
19 Hearings on S. 1003 before the Consumer Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Commerce, 90th Cong., 1st Sess., 166 (1967) (Senate Hearings) House Hearings 73 (1967)
20 ibid, Senate Hearings 164
21 Tribus,TheStandards Dilemma, American Standards Institute Meeting, November 21,1969, p.9
22 LeBlanc, Fire Retardant Cotton Textiles in the US. - Past, Present and Future, GDI 103,112-13, 117
23 15 U.S.C. 2064 (d)(l), (b)(2)(supp. 1992)
24 Robert Adler, "Model Agency" To Basket Case - Can The CPSC Be Redeemed?, 41 ADMIN. LREV 62 (1989)
25 Gryc versus Dayton Hudson, 297 Nw2d 727(Minn.), cert denied 449 U.S. 921 (1980)
26 Leo Populus versus Union Underwear Company, Inc., Case No. 90 CV 71236, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division
27 "Mannequin Simulation Studies In The Flammability Evaluation of Garments", C.J. Abraham, Jesse H. Bidanset and Malcolm Newman. Thirteenth International Conference on Fire Safety, January 11-15,1988, San Francisco, CA
28 "A New Standard of Care for Wearing Apparel, Blankets and Sheets", C.J. Abraham, Vladimir Mischutin and Malcolm Newman. Fifteenth International Conference on Fire Safety, January 8-10,1990, San Francisco, CA.
29 "Flammable Fabrics: New Standards of Care for Populations at Risk", C.J. Abraham, Vladimir Mischutin and Malcolm Newman. Textile Institute World Conference, Dundee, Scotland, November 19-22,1990
30 Federal Register, Vol. 58, No. 8, 4078, January 13,1993
31 Federal Register,Vol.58,No.8,4111-4114,Janu-ary 13,1993


DR. C.J. ABRAHAM, P.E., FRSC is an authority in the fields of product liability, safety and safety engineering. He is a contributing author of the PRODUCT DEFECT HANDBOOK. He has published papers on fires, explosions (gas, fire, bottle, battery), plastics, toxic torts, flammable fabrics, safety engineering and design, and sports/recreation safety. For 25 years he has been involved with safety analysis and design of consumer products, industrial and construction safety (OSHA); evaluation of explosions and fires, and material behavior. He has consulted on ABC and CBS TV on chemistry, chemical engineering, safety engineering/design, and warnings/instructions.

Standards Engineering
May/June 1993