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Under Armour could be facing a somewhat bizarre controversy — and it has nothing to do with the time CEO Kevin Plank fangirled over Donald Trump. Now inquiring minds want one question answered: Will wearing Under Armour clothing make them catch fire?
It all started with a viral June 8 Facebook post about a girl who was allegedly badly burned while wearing UA near a campfire. According to the account, written by a woman who identified herself as the girl’s grandmother, “a spark flew out and she burst into flames,” suffering second- and third-degree burns on 40 percent of her body.(Racked reached out to the author of the post and is awaiting a response. A representative for Under Armour said the company had been in touch with her but provided no further details.)
Although no clothing, even the kind marketed as flame retardant, is truly fireproof, the story about the campfire incident gained so much traction that Snopes clarified the rumors about the flammability of Under Armour garments. The original Facebook post was shared a staggering 179,000 times, netting 4,200 comments and 2,000 likes. Although many people responded to the account with sympathy, some were skeptical.
“I highly [doubt] that she would immediately burst into flames unless she had something flammable on her clothes,” wrote one poster.
In contrast, another commenter said that from her experience, UA clothes were highly flammable: “While the clothing line is comfy and nice, I learned from experience how fast just a small cigarette butt can burn through an under armor hoodie,” she wrote. “Mine had a hole in it from the butt within a second where any other material just [singed] a little.”
According to Snopes, Under Armour clothing has not landed on the radar of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which hasn’t issued any recalls related to the apparel.
“We found no information to suggest the brand’s items were not in compliance with federal regulations,” Snopes reported.
The activewear company issued a statement to Racked: “Under Armour clothing is not flame-retardant, unless it’s specifically labeled that way. In fact, most clothing is not flame-retardant. Due to the unpredictable nature of fire, especially open flames, always exercise caution no matter what you’re wearing.”
The retailer actually includes a warning about flammability on certain clothing items. Under the description for its men’s HeatGear tactical short-sleeve T-shirt, it cautions, “This product will melt when exposed to extreme heat or open flames, posing a risk of serious injury where melted product comes into contact with skin!” The shirt, currently sold out, is made of polyester.
The June Facebook post is not the first time consumers have raised concerns about the flammability of Under Armour apparel. In 2007, a user on the Firehouse.com message board for firefighters asked if he could wear Under Armour during a structure fire. He received a mixed response, with some people warning “that stuff will melt to you” and others answering “you’ll be fine.” And in 2006, the US Department of Defense’s news service reported that some Marines had been banned from wearing synthetic athletic clothing containing polyester and nylon, particularly from brands like Under Armour, CoolMax, and Nike due to “a substantial burn risk.” Marines, however, weren’t prohibited from wearing the performance apparel when working in environments in which the risk of exposure to flames or intense heat was low.
In 2014, a child was reportedly badly burned “with unthinkable speed and intensity” while wearing Nike Dri-FIT shorts near a campfire. He spent a week in a burn unit with second-degree burns covering 17 percent of his body. The shorts were made from polyester microfibers.
Concerns about the flammability of clothing long predate high-performance sports apparel as well as social media. After rayon clothing resulted in the deaths of several children in the 1940s, the federal government implemented the US Flammable Fabrics Act of 1953. And in the mid-1800s, women died in both the US and abroad because of the popularity of dresses made from flammable fabrics like bobbinet, cotton muslin, gauze, and tarlatan. In 1860, British medical journal the Lancet estimated that “3,000 women in one year died by fire,” Racked reported.
Sadly, consumers have suffered injuries or even died because of clothing’s flammability for generations. This widely circulated Facebook post seems to be just the latest incident to renew those fears.