CPSC's Apparel Flammability Standard Gets a Makeover

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is modernizing its flammability standard for general wearing apparel, 16 CFR Part 1610, to match manufacturers' current testing procedures and current environmental concerns. For example, the standard directs that laboratory dry cleaning of garments should use perchloroethylene in an open container even though this violates EPA rules and the commission's staff stopped using this procedure in 1986. Once the changes issued today take effect Sept. 22, 2008, labs will use the dry cleaning method in ASTM D1230, Standard Test Method for Apparel Flammability - perchloroethylene in a closed commercial dry cleaning machine for one cycle.

Flammability of clothing has been a CPSC responsibility since its creation by Congress in 1972. The standard establishes three classes of flammability that are based on burn time and visual observation of flame intensity. The classes are: Class 1, normal flammability; Class 2, intermediate flammability; and Class 3, rapid and intense burning. Classification is based on results before and after dry cleaning and washing, whichever is lower.

Today's final rule says deaths where clothing was the first item ignited have declined from 311 in 1980 to 129 in 2004, which is the most recent year for which data are available. An average of 120 clothing fire-related fatalities occurred annually during 2002-2004, with an estimated 3,947 non-fatal injuries being treated in hospital emergency departments annually in 2003-2005.

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