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Updated 11:00 AM March 8, 2004



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UMHS to study burns related to children's clothing

When parents dress their children for bed at night, they frequently choose sleepwear that is comfortable or made of natural products such as cotton pajamas, sweats or T-shirts.

Experts say it's important to focus not just on comfort, but also whether the clothing will protect their children from serious burn-related injuries or death. The Trauma Burn Center (TBC) is partnering with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to study burn injuries related to children's clothing.

Children are most at risk for burn injuries from playing with fire around bedtime or soon after rising in the morning, according to TBC and CPSC.

"Children are fascinated by fire. They will often sneak candles, matches or lighters into their bedrooms to play with after their parents have kissed them goodnight," says Karla Ahrns, clinical research coordinator for TBC. "Flame-resistant sleepwear is designed to reduce injuries occurring from this type of scenario. Garments meet flame resistance regulations if they do not continue to burn after coming in brief contact with a small flame source like matches or lighters."

The United States had stringent sleepwear flammability standards for more than 20 years, requiring all children's sleep attire to be flame resistant. However, in the late 1990s, the CPSC amended the regulations to allow non-flame resistant sleepwear as long as it was "snug-fitting" and to have no restrictions on infant sleepwear under size 9 months.

The CPSC's new National Burn Center Reporting System is a cooperative effort of TBC, the American Burn Association, Shriners Hospitals for Children and the National Association of State Fire Marshals. Burn centers nationwide will report to the commission any incidents in which a child's clothing is believed to play a part in a burn injury.

The new reporting system aims to determine whether the relaxation in flammability standards has increased the risk of burn injuries to children.

"We report any incidents that include the ignition, melting or smoldering of any apparel worn by children, not just sleepwear," says Ahrns, a registered nurse who is coordinating the project for TBC. "We will be working closely with Michigan fire marshals, fire departments, EMS and community hospitals to retrieve and preserve for the commission children's clothing involved in burn injuries."

"This tool will give safety experts much-needed information that was previously not available to better document and understand the nature and cause of clothing-related burn injuries to children," says Dr. Paul Taheri, medical director of TBC.

For more information, visit or contact Ahrns at (734) 615-5370 or

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