October 19, 2007
WHO TAKES RESPONSIBILITY?
Producing product for government contracts very often means using the materials the government contract states are the only materials that are acceptable. What if one or more of the components used are in fact detrimental to the end item user; i.e. the soldier. What if the material used does not have an immediate detrimental effect but rather a long term detrimental effect, that is to say the detrimental effects show up 5 or 10 years later.
Is the US government responsible to the individual(s) or the manufacturer?
I posed the question to two manufacturers and was told categorically the manufacturer was in fact the responsible entity. That said why would any manufacturer chose to make a product that incorporates materials that are detrimental to the users when they know the fabric is detrimental and take the chances of legal action being brought against them at some future date? It is the money, and maybe the manufacturers are counting on not being sued when a problem arises.
As a manufacturer I believe that you have a responsibility to deliver product that is not injurious to the health of your customers. The May 2007 newsletter recounts the military specifically the Marine Corps placing an Request for Information (RFI) for a new sleeping bag that would weight 2 ½ pounds and perform as low as +20 degrees F. Taking into consideration that no company including Wiggy’s has ever been able to make a sleeping bag that would meet their criteria I chose to tell those in the government who were over seeing the project that it could not be done. However, this did not faze several companies (or the over seers of the RFI) that chose to offer products that were close to the weight in there opinion, and the government employees ignored what I told them. At this time I guess the government is actively testing four candidate bags. I know all of the companies involved and they have never in the past made a product to meet the criteria and they do not have a product now.
Now the same government employees are actively looking into the acquisition of fire retardant (FR) underwear or base layer garments. They have pretty much decided that the fiber to be used for these base layer garments should be made from modacrylic fiber. The only thing I knew about modacrylic was that it is synthetic and would not burn easily. If it is ignited it will self extinguish once the source of fire is removed. On the surface that information sounds very encouraging, but it is not all that good. In order to find out what the negative characteristics are I referred to what I believe is the greatest source of information in the world; the INTERNET.
What I learned is significant, so significant I would not buy any product made from modacrylic fiber let alone a base layer article of clothing; base layer being what is worn against the skin. The military wants a base layer that will not burn or melt if a troop is exposed to the high heat generated by an IED. The research I did revealed interesting, some very interesting facts. To begin with the modacrylic softens and gets sticky when it is heated to 300 degrees F and the polyester underwear that the troops were issued as well as the underwear they bought themselves which was also polyester became sticky at 460 degrees F. We know that the polyester underwear melted into the skin therefore, I believe a fair conclusion at this point is the modacrylic will do the same since the temperature of the IED is in excess of 460 degrees F. There are more problems with modacrylic base layer garments that could be damaging to humans early on as well as long term negative affects.
“The Federal Trade Commission defines modacrylic fibers as, manufactured fibers in which the fiber forming substance is any long chain of synthetic polymers composed of less than 85%, but at least 35% by weight acrylonitrile units except when the polymer qualifies as rubber.”
Modacrylic is an “intimate fiber blend of poly (m-phenylene isophthalamide.)” “This invention relates to fiber blends, yarns and fabrics for use in light weight garments offering protection against brief exposure to extreme fluxes (a flow or flowing), the fiber blend compromising a component that fuses within 10 seconds (emphasis by the author)upon exposure.” It is obvious that soldiers are exposed to IED’s briefly so protection for 10 second is as if there is no protection at all, in my opinion.
Some properties of modacrylic are “poor conductor of heat.” This means when the garments are worn in warm summer conditions, in the Middle East that means 100 degrees and higher, the heat generated by a person wearing a modacrylic garment would find that the heat they are producing stays with them as well as their sweat where a natural fiber product such as wool would dissipate the heat; i.e. take away from the body as well as the moisture i.e. sweat.
Modacrylic is made from acrylonitrile with vinyl chloride or vinylidene chloride or vinyl bromide. The BASF data sheet from September 1, 2004 has the following Hazard Information; “Caution: may cause eye, skin or respiratory tract irritation. Ingestion may cause gastric disturbances-primary routes of entry for solids and liquids. Softening and sticking point is 300 degrees F and polyester is 460 degrees F. Acute toxicity- when molten it will cause burns. Imagine that (emphasis the author). If subjected to excessive heat the primary decomposition produces vapors. 1st aid measures if inhaled-move patient to fresh air assist in breathing if necessary. If on skin wash with soap and water if irritation continues seek medical help. Exposure controls-wear a respirator, gloves and tight fitting safety goggles (chemical goggles). Regulatory information: THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS A CHEMICAL(s) KNOWN TO THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA TO CAUSE CANCER AND BIRTH DEFECTS OR OTHER REPROCUCTIVE HARM. (I have written the last sentence is capitols since that are how it was printed on the data sheet.)
Modacrylic is a synthetic material just like all synthetics it is subject to melting and I really don’t care whether it is at 300 degrees or 600 degrees it still melts and as such is injurious to a person.
Now I ask why any manufacturer in his right mind would want to manufacture a base layer (underwear) garment that is made from modacrylic material? Why would any person charged with the responsibility to find FR garments want to specify modacrylic base layer garments when there is so much information available that almost dictates this is a product to stay away from for this form of end item. All of the chemicals that have gone into the making of modacrylic fiber are not permanently locked into the fiber they will leach out and be absorbed into the skin there by polluting the body with cancer causing chemicals. The basic catalyst is moisture. Refer to my October 19 article in the follow up section of the web site talking about what was discovered at Case Western Un. and how a detrimental chemical leached out of the plastic water container that adversely effected the reproduction of the mice. Imagine much larger humans wearing modacrylic long underwear for days on end sweating and therefore making a perfect situation for the synthetic to leach chemicals on to the skin surface so it can be absorbed. This is the long term negative effect that comes into play. So again I ask who is responsible (?) and if my contacts are as correct as they seemed I sure would not want to be the manufacture. I also view these manufacturers as people of bad character, unethical and immoral. Imagine providing the men and women (there are bra’s being made as well for women in the military) who are fighting to keep our way of life going here in the USA with garments that in my opinion are detrimental to their health.
I am sure most of you have seen one of many commercials for a new prescription drug that promises the cure your ailment, and towards the end there is noted a number of side effects that you should be aware of. In all cases the side effects out number the positives. The same holds true in my opinion for modacrylic, it is bad news.
I as the owner of Wiggy’s sells some product I do not manufacture one of them am FR underwear. I have as much confidence in the FR underwear being the absolute best there is as I do in knowing I make the best sleeping bag in the world. I stand behind the performance of this underwear as strongly as I do my sleeping bag. If you have a son, daughter, brother, sister, father, husband or wife serving in the military and want to get them the best FR underwear made in the world Wiggy’s is the place to call.
I am equally proud to represent the Wickers products as I am my own!
October 16, 2007
FIRE RETARDANT UNDERWEAR
About two years ago a Navy field surgeon noted that soldiers were getting worse wounds because the underwear they were wearing was melting like molten steel into the bodies from the heat generated by IED’s and bullet heat causing the fabric to fuse to the skin where it entered the body. The fabric used to make the underwear was either polyester or polypropylene; both plastics. As a result of these injuries the military started to look for flame retardant (FR) underwear.
Basically there are four different fabrics available to make FR underwear. Fabric one is 100 % FR treated cotton, it has some good properties but it has insignificant durability. In order to FR treat the fabric it must go through a series of baths applying the FR chemical and each time it is dried the strength of the fabric is diminished. A T-shirt might last through six launderings if the garment hasn’t been shredded first just from aggressive wear. Fabric number two is Nomex which used extensively in underwear worn by race car drivers. Nomex is nylon with a very high melt point as compared to nylon such as is used for jackets. The reality is if you are wearing Nomex underwear and receive a bullet wound or are in close proximity to an IED you will experience the same melting as seen with polyester or polypropylene. Even if you do not get wounded it has other detrimental characteristics, it does not permit body generated moisture to get away from the skin surface, so in warm weather it is very uncomfortable hot and in cold weather you get a significant chill and finally it will retain body order. Fabric number three is made from “modacrylic” fiber. This fabric is possibly the worst of the three. Modacrylic is also a plastic; petrochemical based product that will melt as easily as polyester or polypropylene. However, in order to make it FR it is treated with vinyl chloride. When excessive heat such as an IED creates the modacrylic material will melt but it gives off a gas. The gas is toxic and its side effect is angiosarcoma of the liver and other cancers. [If you research Vinyl chloride on the internet you will find law suit after law suit about vinyl chloride.] The fabric makers are also adding anti-microbial chemicals to the fabric. The thought is the anti-microbial additive will kill bacteria that causes odor. I have written about this subject in the past; anti-microbial chemicals are pesticides. If the garment you are wearing is treated with these chemicals they will leach into you body through the largest organ of the human body the skin. The fabric makers also claim the fabric to be “moisture-wicking”. IMPOSSIBLE!!!!! I as well as everyone else in the world with any intelligence know plastic does not have any ability to wick moisture; so they are in a word “lying”.
Let us review the modacrylic fabric; it is made of a plastic so it melts into the skin, it is treated with vinyl chloride to make it FR but when it burns it gives off a toxic gas that is carcinogenic, it is treated with pesticides and finally it is uncomfortably hot in summer and cold in winter because the moisture the body generated is trapped against the skin surface.
Fabric number four is faultless. Fabric number four is a blend of two natural fibers each of them being inherently flame retardant. The blend is 50% merino wool and 50% FR viscose rayon. The material does not melt, if subjected to a high enough heat it will char. If you are wearing a synthetic fabric garment over it and it melts the molten material will roll off of the fabric as not melt into the material or skin. When you perspire the fabric “wicks” the moisture from the skin surface. When the moisture touches the fabric against the skin surface it is absorbed, as more and more moisture is created the moisture moves to the opposite side of the fabric away from the skin surface; the action of the moisture moving through the fabric in this manner is termed “wicking”. The result is more comfort in all weather conditions; winter, summer or in between weather. The comfort factor is on the incredible side: you soon forget your wearing underwear it is that comfortable. In addition the material does not retain odor and again there are no chemical additives applied to the fabric to accomplish this. And finally durability; how about being able to launder your underwear over and over and over again for a couple of years, with out wearing out. They will last that long.
To review; naturally FR, no gases, wicks moisture, does not retain odor, can be laundered countless times.
If you go to my web site and click on clothing you will find these remarkable underwear products; briefs, T-shirts and long underwear. They are made by Wickers and an American based company in the US of A.
If you have a relative working in the military and stationed in a war zone they are required to wear FR underwear and as far as I know it is not readily available in the system and will not be for probably a year from now. If you are a fire fighter or an electrical worker this FR underwear is what you also should be wearing.
I know that the sleeping bags and cold weather clothing I produce is as good as can possibly made and performs better than all similar products produced today or had been produced. I take great pride in that accomplishment. I am equally convinced that the Wickers FR underwear is without question in its field of garment to be an equal to my products and it for this reason I am proud to offer the Wickers products. They have my unequivocal endorsement.