What is flammable clothing?
Flammable clothing is clothing that is made of material that catches alight easily.
Flammable vs. inflammable
Flammable and inflammable mean the same thing. Both words mean that the object is capable of catching fire. The word inflammable is often used mistakenly to mean the opposite of flammable.1
How may a child be injured?
If a garment catches fire, a child may suffer serious burns. Burn injuries may lead to severe scarring, permanent disability and even death. Children’s clothes that most commonly catch alight are pyjamas and nighties.2
What does clothing flammability mean?
Clothing flammability is the speed at which clothes catch fire and the rate that they burn once alight. Flammability of clothing depends on:3
1 - The fibres
- Cotton and rayon generally burn more easily.
- Synthetic fibres such as nylon are a somewhat lower risk; however these fibres will melt and stick to skin.
- Fabrics made from animal hair, pure silk or pure wool have flame resistant properties. This means that they are more difficult to set on fire, however, they will burn once ignited.
- Flame retardant fabrics are made from plant fibres that are chemically treated. They take longer to ignite, but will eventually catch fire and are not ‘fire-proof’. They will extinguish themselves once the flame source is removed. These are the types of fabrics fire fighters use.
2 - Pile or nap
- Pile or nap surfaces have very loose fibres, with significant air space between them e.g. Fluffy and fuzzy fabrics, faux fur, chenille, corduroy, velvet and tassels.. This type of surface ignites easily and the flames spread quickly across the brushed surfaces.
3 - Weave or weight
- In general, heavier fabrics with a tighter weave have a higher flame resistance and are slower to burn.
4 - Clothing design
- Long, loose fitting clothing, such as nightgowns, are more dangerous than close-fitting clothing, as they can swing away from the body and make contact with a flame.
How common are these injuries?
In Australia, between 2005-2006, there were five children hospitalised due to ignition or melting of nightwear. All of these children were aged between 0-9yrs).4
Is there a Law or an Australian Standard for flammable clothing?
The law, in Australia, states that all children’s nightwear sold must comply with the Australian Standard
(AS/NZS 1249:2003 - Children's nightwear and limited daywear having reduced fire hazard). Manufacturers, suppliers and retailers must comply with this mandatory standard. The standard applies to nightwear from size 00 up to 14.2
To comply with the standard there must be a fire hazard information label on the clothing which states one of the following:2
- Look for the low fire danger label when buying sleepwear and clothing for your child and avoid buying sleepwear and clothing with the high fire danger label.
- Avoid buying loose sleepwear and clothing which could catch alight easily. Instead, choose close-fitting clothing.
- Keep your child away from fires, radiators, heaters, BBQs, candles, lighters and matches.
- Use guards around fires, radiators and heaters.
- If you make your own children’s sleepwear and clothing, look at the safety warnings on patterns. Do not choose fabrics which are fluffy, fuzzy or have loose dangling tassels and avoid using lightweight material.
- If your child’s clothing does catch on fire, tell them to: STOP, DROP, COVER face and ROLL.
1 Oxford University Press (2010) Oxford Dictionaries Online. Accessed from: http://oxforddictionaries.com/view/entry/m_en_gb0410110#m_en_gb0410110
2 Trade Practices (Consumer Product Safety Standards) (Children’s Nightwear and Paper Patterns for Children’s Nightwear) Regulations 2007.
3 Oglesbay, F. B. (1998) The flammable fabrics problem. Injury Prevention. 4:317-320.
4 Kresfeld R & Harrison JE (2010). Hospital separations due to injury and poisoning 2005-06. Injury research and statistics series no. 55. Canberra AIHW.