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Fire Safety Standards for Children's Nightwear: Why is Wool Safer?

In Australia, baby sleeping bags and sleepwear must be fire tested and labelled in accordance with Australian Standards to keep our children safer.  When our Merineo baby sleeping bags were tested at the Australian Wool Testing Authority’s laboratory in Kensington, Melbourne, we were fortunate to be invited on a laboratory tour including watching the fire testing, learning more about how wool keeps us safer.

Open fires and bar heaters

The fire testing and labelling standard originated in Australia in 1969, and thankfully reduced the number of hospital admissions of children suffering burns.  Prior to then, parents were less aware of the risk of children huddling up close to an open fire in their nightwear to keep warm, or playing in the kitchen too close to a hot oven, or warming themselves next to an electric bar heater and getting too close.  As synthetic textiles increased in usage, parents were also unaware of the risk of these fabrics melting at lower temperatures and causing skin burns. 

Consumer Goods (Children's Nightwear and Limited Daywear and Paper Patterns for Children's Nightwear) Safety Standard 2017

The Safety Standard adopts the Australian Standard “AS/NZS 1249:2014 Children’s nightwear and limited daywear having reduced fire hazard”, a 64 page standard developed jointly with New Zealand, and is overseen by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.  It sets out which sleepwear and limited daywear fall within the standard, the technical details for testing, and the labelling requirements.

The standard is mandatory, meaning if you manufacture and sell children’s sleepwear and limited daywear in Australia, then you must have the garment fire tested, and the garment just be labelled with the relevant fire risk.  There are some fabrics and sleepwear designs prohibited from being sold because of the high risk of flammability.

A merino wool baby sleeping bag is a safer option for your baby because it is naturally flame resistant.  Merino uses 100% superfine merino on it's baby sleeping bags.

Nightwear and baby sleeping bags

Baby sleeping bags with sleeves or arm openings, pyjamas, bath robes, boxer shorts and nighties, up to size 14, sold in Australia, must be tested and have a fire warning label attached.  There are two labels, as shown below.  The red label means the garment is more hazardous than a garment with the white label.  It can ignite or melt at a lower temperature, posing a greater risk to the child.  Merineo’s garments have the white label affixed, because of our use of 100% merino wool, which is less flammable as shown by the testing conducted by the AWTA.

AS/NZS 1249:2014 is the fire standard relating to children's nightwear

Laboratory testing

In the laboratory, the technicians have a mini-clothesline type structure set up over a Bunsen burner in a glass cage (there is probably a scientific description for what I am trying to describe!).   The temperature at which the fabric melts or ignites is measured, together with how long it takes for the garment to burn and how wide the flame spreads.  If you follow us on social @Merineobaby we will be posting these videos over the coming weeks.

Wool never melts

As you can see below from this list of common sleepwear fibres and their ignition and melting temperatures, wool ignites at a temperature between 576 - 600 degrees Celsius, making it safer to use in clothing.  Synthetics are dangerous in fires because of their low melting points, causing a garment to melt and stick to the skin at temperatures as low as 160 degrees Celsius. 

Wool ignites at:

576-600 C

Cotton ignites at:

255 C

Polyester melts at:

252 – 292 C

Nylon melts at:

160 – 260 C 

Wool is self-extinguishing

The reason wool is safer is because wool is naturally high in nitrogen and water content, and requires a high level of oxygen from the environment to sustain combustion, known in technical terms as a high Limiting Oxygen Index, and when it burns, it has a low heat of combustion, which is the amount of heat energy released.  Wool is therefore often described as self-extinguishing because it can’t keep itself burning.  It quickly burns out.

So why does wool put itself out?  Wool’s cell membrane structure swells when heated, forming an insulating layer preventing the spread of flame. 

Wool provides protection

Wool is preferred as clothing, due to it being naturally flame resistant, and it also increases fire safety in the home when used in soft furnishings including bedding, carpets, drapes, soft coverings and cushions, and in public areas like hotels, airports and picture theatres (and also because it wears well and absorbs noise).  Smoke inhalation is sometimes the cause of injury or worse in a fire.  Wool produces less smoke and toxic gas than synthetic fibres.  It is the fibre of choice in furnishings when it comes to fire safety.

Wool is naturally flame resistant, making it the preferred option for your home's soft furnishings.

Labels remind parents of the risks of fire

Some parents dislike labels on necklines for fear of causing discomfort to their children, but they serve a useful purpose in warning parents of the dangers of fire and keeping children safer.  Most baby sleeping bag manufacturers use labels, instead of printing the label onto the fabric, because the colours and wording of the labels described above must be strictly complied with, otherwise the garment will fail the standard.  The labels may also be printed onto the fabric, but must pass rigorous washing tests to ensure the labelling remains visible for the life of the garment.  

Where children's nightwear is for sale in a package that obscures the label on the garment, the fire hazard information must be prominently marked on the package.  Many baby sleeping bags are sold in boxes, and you will see the fire label printed on the box.

With the growth of online shopping, the standards have evolved over the years to require clear and legible fire hazard information as part of the digital image and product description.

Buying a second hand baby sleeping bag

The sale of second hand garments at op shops and markets do not need to comply with the labelling requirements, the rationale being that it’s too much to expect re-sellers to be aware of these requirements, and it would disadvantage those purchasers seeking low-cost garments if the compliance costs were to be passed on. 

A wool sleeping bag is a safer choice for your baby to sleep in

When choosing a baby sleeping bag or sleepwear for your child, as part of your decision also consider the fire risk of the fabric of the garment.  Be aware of the risks of your child wearing different fabrics near heat sources, and always watch your child playing near heaters and ovens.  Pyjamas and nighties that fit snuggly are recommended, rather than loose fitting sleepwear.  Letting your toddler walk around in their sleeping bag is not a good idea either in case they trip over.  

Wool’s performance when it comes to sleepwear for children means it is a safer option, and combined with it's attributes as a natural and sustainable fibre, a merino wool sleeping bag is the preferred option to keep your child safe and healthy, whilst helping them sleep better.

Wool is naturally fire resistant, making a wool baby sleeping bag a safer option for your child