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Who Takes Responsibility?

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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!

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