Flammable fabrics imported into the US due to false labeling could be in your closet or home

Flammable fabrics imported into the US due to false labeling could be in your closet or home

The textile industry must embrace natural fibers to eliminate toxic products

A dangerous flammable fabric is being imported into the US that fails to meet basic fire standards.  Testing a fabric sample with the “disposable lighter test,” a very simple test where you put a lighter’s flame to the fabric shows that this fabric fails miserably. The mystery fabric ignites like a sparkler, dripping molten chemicals that burn into the surface of anything that they drip on.

The fabric is labeled as 100% polyester, although silver-nano particles can be seen with the naked eye.  Silver particles generally provide anti-microbial properties.  Oddly, our test fabric was marketed as “stain resistant” instead of “anti-microbial.” 

Burned Fabric

Relating to the fire testing on the label, Barbara Filippone of EnviroTextiles stated, “These are some of the strictest fire rating tests in the hospitality and commercial application industries.  They provide the customer assurance that this fabric is not flammable.  I have 40 years of experience in textiles, and this is a completely false label as shown.  When I held a lighter to the sample it ignited like a 4th of July sparkler, dripping molten chemical substance.  Normal polyester when held to a lighter will roll back on itself and when cooled the polyester becomes quite hard like a plastic.”

The fabric’s label indicates that the following tests were performed, with commentary by Barbara Filippone:

Flame Codes:

  • NFPA 701 small scale 2004
  • UFAC Class 1
  • NFPA 260
  • Cal Tech Bulletin 117 SEC.E 

Finish – Nanotex Stain Moisture Resistant Finish:  “Based on the fact that nano is smaller than a molecule and that silver was intended for anti-microbial properties, the flame tests are not accurate.  The silver particles can be seen with the naked eye and are not embedded.  When ignited, the silver becomes airborne. The nano terminology that was used on the labeling to describe the finishing is totally misleading.”

Content – 100% Polyester:  “The burn characteristics do not appear to be polyester.  In my professional opinion this may not be polyester.”

Abrasion – Exceeds 102,000 Double Rubs:  For abrasion testing, there are two standard tests, the Martinson and the Wyzenbeek.  The numbers of rub cycles for general contract upholstery are only 20,000 cycles for the Martindale and 15,000 for the Wyzenbeek, nowhere near the 100,000 mark.  “If labeled correctly, the abrasion tests would indicate which test standards were used.  For example, what abrasion material was used, cotton or wire?  How many pounds of pressure were used?”

Cleaning Code – Washable:  “Will the silver particles make it through a commercial washing?  When I hand washed the sample in warm water silver particles were clearly visible in the bottom of the sink.”

In the early nineties a synthetic georgette fabric was banned from import due to its high flammability.  Ms. Filippone was featured on Denver 9 News burning a skirt made from the flammable fabric.  That fabric was banned from the US following the flame demonstration.  This footage can be found in the 1994 NBC affiliates’ archives on Channel 9 Denver News.  EnviroTextiles has a copy for reference if needed.

 Flammable Fabric Label

Another case for false labeling that can be spotted in retail outlets are outdoor performance products contain CoolMax™, a moisture wicking fabric developed by DuPont in 1986.  Products containing Coolmax clearly list organic cotton, spandex, and CoolMax™; however what CoolMax™ actually contains is anyone’s best guess. 

Drought conditions have created a shortage of organic and traditional cotton, and the countries which produce cotton are under social conflict making it difficult for foreign buyers to trust supply.  India is currently one of few stable suppliers although the price of cotton is at all time highs.  Without a stable cotton supply, the textile industry will likely continue its shift to more synthetics.  We must become more conscious as consumers or we all may be wearing plastic clothing made from GMO corn in the future.  Consumers should aggressively support programs for transparent labeling on all products, not just food items.  The USDA’s BioPreferred program was recently created to provide consumers with product transparency for products marketed as green and sustainable.  Programs like the USDA Bio Preferred program are essential to insure that our “green” products are actually what they say they are.

EnviroTextiles produced the first example of transparency labeling in 2004 when Filippone decided that since our food products show content, it makes sense to provide the same transparency for all products.