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They Refuse To Acknowledge Knowledge

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Modacrylic is a copolymer fiber. A copolymer fiber is a made from combination of two chemicals, both petrochemicals. They have a melt point between 375 F and 425 F. I am not making this up, all one has to do, is do the research available on the wonderful internet. This is the basic material that is being used to make flame retardant underwear for our military. You recall that all soldiers going into battle zones were prohibited from wearing the synthetic underwear they were issued due to the melting of the synthetic material when an IED was encountered. According to an article in the March 10 ,2007 issue of Stars and Stripes military publication, I quote; “As part of that testing, the new uniforms have been engulfed in flames at the same temperature of about 1500 degrees to mimic the initial flash from a roadside bomb (IED), officials said.” The comment actually is about the uniform worn over the underwear. It seems to me that the underwear being worn subjected to 1500 degrees will melt.


One of the major suppliers for the modacrylic fabric; Drifire located in the Chicago area publishes on their web site; “There are no caustic agents or dangerous chemical compounds in modacrylic nor are any added to our garments before, during or after the process of garment manufacture.” That is a somewhat misleading statement; they to the best of my knowledge do not manufacture the finished garments. They also have an American flag with the caption “Drifire is made in America.” Again a misleading statement; Drifire is an American company but the raw materials used to make the fabric come from Asia or Europe. First of all about 1977 the Dupont Company terminated the manufacture of Modacrylic fiber because they lost I believe 18 employees to cancer. The materials that go into the manufacture of modacrylic are carcinogenic. Two or three other chemical companies that also produced modacrylic fiber ended their production shortly there after. All of the modacrylic used by Drifire is made in either Japan or China. I agree the material that is used is cut and sewn in the USA.

Every bit of this information which includes the off gassing that occurs when it does burn is toxic is simply not acknowledged by the powers to be who make the decisions about the clothing issued to our soldiers.

I am not alone in wondering why they refuse to acknowledge knowledge.

Not accepting existing knowledge is not new to those who are in the employee of the government working for the military in the textile area. The wool viscose rayon material has been in use for clothing worn by workers in steel or aluminum manufacturing plants because of its fire retardant capability particularly the fact that it will not melt from high heat. Electrical workers wear it against their skin and are told not to wear any synthetic underwear, and have been told this for years. This is not to say some in the electrical field follow all of the recommendations, but that is the reason they were told this in the first place, electrical fires generate as much as 14,000 degrees of heat. This fabric has been around for some years now; you would think that the existence of this knowledge would be embraced by the government employees working for the military, but no! They have to reinvent the wheel. When you present them with all of the facts about your product and the false information about the other products they create a testing program which can last for what could be a lifetime especially if they want the product you know will not perform. It’s called job security.

I remember 1968 when the continuous filament fiber “Polar Guard” came on the market. It was shown to the army testing laboratory at Natick, MA. The individual in charge jumped on it like a fly on you know what. Since I had been doing experiments with laminating fiberfill and found that this was the only fiberfill that would laminate successfully I showed him. He noted the benefits and ordered materials for use in the manufacture of mittens for the Alaskan command. They performed better than any other mitten ever used in Alaska by the military. That was as far as it ever went. They did use the Polar Guard quilted for insulation in field jacket liners and sleeping bags. However, that ended in 1980 or so when they were shown a chopped staple fiberfill that claimed to be as good only less expensive. It was only less expensive, it was not then nor is it today or will it be tomorrow as good. Things with respect to continuous filament changed in 1993 when I started to supply the Marines with sample sleeping bags. Natick got back in the act but would only use the continuous filament fiberfill quilted. Recently they accepted Primaloft a chopped staple polyester fiberfill product not near as good as the one they approved in 1980 which did not have a brand name. Actually they would not recognize the Polar Guard name back then. Each product was only known by its generic description until now when they specifically say Primaloft; I wonder why? Trust me it is as poor a material as you can get to use for insulation. They did not then and do not today acknowledge knowledge.

Coincidently the individual who had the responsibility to show Natick the Polar Guard is also the same person who brought to my attention the wool viscose rayon fabric. He initially did not told me about its fire retardant properties but rather that it did not retain odor. His idea was to make aerobic wear from it. Imagine wearing a comfortable T-shirt while your working out that did not retain body odor without the poisons associated with the antimicrobial chemical additives now being used. The antimicrobial or pesticide additives kill the microbes the body is eliminating via the sweat glands before they get out of the pores. Now that they are dead the body has to reabsorb them with the pesticides and where do they go, into the blood stream (?) and then the liver; or into the bodies fat reserves (?) I do not know but I do know antimicrobial treated active wear is not healthy. The FR fabrics being used for the military underwear is treated with the antimicrobial additives.

I directed him to the military when he told me the material was being worn by workers in aluminum factories because it was also flame retardant. This was 2005 prior to the Marines banning the wearing of any synthetic underwear. By the time that occurred in 2006 thousands of pairs of the Wickers fire retardant underwear had been purchased by Army Special Forces, I was also providing the FR underwear to Marines who were stationed in Iraq and active in the actions in Fallujah. It wasn’t until Natick started looking into FR underwear did the antimicrobial aspect come about. Maybe I’m wrong but if you have a proven product why not go with it. If you still want to research for something else do it. Once again they choose not to acknowledge knowledge.

Once again the internet proves its worth. The modacrylic fiber is produced by a Japanese company “Kaneka Corporation” whose brand name for the fiber is Protex. According to Jonathan Smith, technical engineer and Protex manager at Waxman Fibers Ltd. (a European company that distributes the modacrylic fiber for Kaneka) told the director: “when the fiber comes in contact with a flame, it releases a small amount of gas, which displaces the oxygen and extinguishes it.” The gas is heavier than air so it displaces the oxygen so the flame dies away. What he did not say is that the fiber does melt like any fiber made from a polymer (plastic substance) which if lying against the surface of the skin will do as much damage as the polyester that was banned. My friend
was recently interviewed by a reporter for the Seattle Times and he demonstrated the properties of his wool viscous rayon fiber product (Wickers brand underwear) and the Drifire modacrylic (85% mod acrylic 15% viscous rayon) with a Bic lighter. The Wickers product did not burn, it charred. When the lighter was turned off the charring ceased and the edge of the garment was chard and smooth to the touch. However, the Drifire garment initially started to smoke, give off fumes (gas referred to by Jonathan Smith) which are toxic antimony. The photographer as well as my friend was choking almost immediately. The base of the garment lit by the same Bic lighter did burn as long as the flame was there. Once extinguished the edge of the garment was melted. The pictures and interview will appear in the Tuesday December 18, 2006 edition. According to the Marine Corps as seen in the article in the March 10, 2007 issue of Stars and Stripes an IED generates about 1500 degrees of heat. That would equate to opening the door to a blast furnace and just standing there. What you are wearing that is exposed to the extreme heat would probably flame and if you are wearing modacrylic underwear it would initially melt and probably flame as well.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety state that antimony (a gas) can be quite harmful at low levels. Antimony oxide is a primary fire retardant chemical used for the manufacture of modacrylic fiber and the antimony is a suspected carcinogen. Furthermore the EPA, CDC, and NIOSH have all categorized acrylonitrile used to make acrylic fiber and modacrylic fiber as hazardous to human health and the environment. In addition vinyl chloride used to convert acrylic fiber into modacrylic fiber is said to be the same hazard to humans and the environment. Including being classified as carcinogens. The primary effects from chronic (long term) exposure to antimony in humans are respiratory effects that include antimony pneumoconiosis, alterations in pulmonary function, chronic bronchitis, chronic emphysema, inactive tuberculosis, pleural adhesions, cardiovascular effects and gastrointestinal disorders. “Web site referral
weblakes.com/toxic/ANTIMONY_AND COMPOUNDS_HTML”

The question one might ask is; with all of the information available why would anyone in the responsible position of acquiring FR clothing for our military chose to move in the direction of putting clothing on our soldiers that is made from material that has never in the past been used for any clothing item worn close to the skin. It has been used to make fake fur coats and it is not used for that any longer. The answer is simple; there is only one company making an exceptional product, Wicker’s. Other companies can if they do the research duplicate Wicker’s, but they chose not too. So we have one company showing an acceptable proven to perform product and 3 or 4 companies showing an unacceptable product so the so called responsible people get competition and drive the price down to an unacceptable level. I explained to my friends at Wicker’s they were experiencing what I have gone through for years, being a single source, and even though I have offered to sell my services to other makers who want to produce bags for the military as I do they the makers have refused to take me up on my offer because the so called people in the responsible position do not want a single source. I would be the only supplier of the lamination process. They do however in the area of sleeping bags contradict themselves since the only company to get the large contracts is and has been since the 1980’s to the best of my knowledge Tennier Industries.

My observation of the overall situation is comparing these so called persons of responsibility to the Arab world. I have recently read books on the history of salt, cotton and beverages. The Arab world for a few thousand years was at the forefront of technology and science with respect to mathematics, engineering, philosophy, etc. About the year 700 AD that all changed. They have stayed in the eight century as far as I can see in general, to this day. Those so called persons of responsibility would probably be right at home if they were relocated to the Middle East, since in my opinion they also appear not to think. Like the Arab world they refuse to acknowledge knowledge.

If any of you reading this article know someone serving in our military and stationed in the Middle East send them the article so they can make the decision for themselves if they want to wear the current issue FR underwear or go to my web site and buy the Wicker’s underwear which has proven to be “SIMPLY THE BEST” like my sleeping bags.

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