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Loose Pj's Called Fire Risk to Kids

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Big and loose clothes may be fashionable for kids on the street and at the mall, but as pajamas they're a potential fire hazard, a federal agency warns.

In certain situations, those fancy designer jerseys and loose fitting T-shirts can transform a treatable burn into a costly, lifelong scar. That's because flapping, loose material is more easily snagged by an open flame and provides more air underneath to feed the fire, experts explain.

We treated an 8-year-old boy who had been reaching over a gas-flame stove and his sleeve caught on fire,'' said Dr. Walter Ingram, medical director of the Grady Burn Center in Atlanta.He was wearing a jersey way bigger than it should be and suffered second- and third-degree burns on his arm and waist.''

Getting parents to think ``snug-fitting'' when it comes to children's sleepwear is the focus of a new campaign of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the federal regulatory agency that oversees consumer product safety.

Parents are putting their kids to sleep in big T-shirts, and we think that's dangerous,'' said Ken Giles, spokesman for the safety commission, best known for recalling toys.It's the physics of the loose fit we're fighting.''

So far, there's plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting the hazards of oversized children's clothes, but hard evidence is needed, said Hal Stratton, commission chairman.

At 115 burn centers nationwide clothing-related burns seen on children under age 15 will be investigated for the type, size, ignition and other details about the material and fire. The investigation could lead to more clothing fire warning labels or other regulations.

We want sound science and solid data to be the basis for decisions we make on regulatory strategies,'' Stratton said.One of our top priorities is to keep families safe from fire. The National Burn Center Reporting System will give us a more complete picture of the most serious clothing-related burns to children and help us prevent or reduce burn incidents in the future.''

The American Burn Association and Shriners Hospitals for Children helped develop the data collection system. The National Association of State Fire Marshals is assisting the effort.

Ingram, also an assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine, said he's concerned about the trend of children wearing athletic jerseys of their favorite sports teams. Wearing the jerseys as sleepwear is dangerous because the material is usually a synthetic blend and can cause significant burns.

In the past, most children were burnt with scalding water, accidentally in the bathtub, that sort of thing,'' Ingram said.But it seems we're seeing more clothing-related burns. With synthetic and polyester material, it melts and shrinks on the child's skin and smolders. It often throws a deep and patchy burn as its shrinks.''

Of the 360 new burn patients the Grady center treats annually, about 35 percent are children; 20 percent are under 2 years old, Ingram said.

Federal regulations require that garments sold as sleepwear for sizes larger than 9 months be either flame-resistant or snug-fitting.

Ideally, experts say, children should be wearing sleepwear labeled flame-resistant'' orflame retardant,'' widely sold in department stores. Such pajamas have passed federal fire standards, and their material doesn't continue to burn when exposed to a small flame.

Several years ago, the product safety commission began labeling other children's tops and pants sometimes worn around the house and in bed with yellow labels instructing that the fit be ``snug.'' These clothes are usually sold alongside flame-resistant pajamas, Giles said.

The yellow hang tag on all-cotton or cotton-blend clothes says: ``For child's safety, garment should fit snugly. This garment is not flame resistant. Loose-fitting garment is more likely to catch fire.''


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c.2003 Cox News Service

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