23 September 2009

Flammable Swedish brassieres

The story comes from The Local (Sweden's news in English) -
“Our opinion is that the Swedish Armed Forces should have ordered good, flame-proof underwear,” Council spokesperson Paulina Rehbinder told The Local.

The women complained that the bras’ fasteners have a tendency to come undone when the women performed rigorous exercise, forcing the female soldiers to take off all of their equipment in order to refasten the brassieres.

In addition, the bras aren’t flame resistant and, once lit, can melt onto conscripts’ skin, the G√∂teborgs-Posten (GP) newspaper reports.
The idea that a brassiere would burst into flames during vigorous exercise immediately brought to my mind a passage in a book I'm reading by Werner Herzog. Describing his efforts to haul a ship over a mountain during the making of Fitzcarraldo...
"The first attempt to tow the ship did not go well, but at least we filmed the failure. After a few meters, the ship tipped and got hung up, and I heard the mighty steel cables in the winch creak strangely and emit unhealthy sounds. Finally one cable, as thick as a man's arm, snapped, having heated up internallly from the strain. It lay smoking on the ground. At the point of breakage I could see that the inner strands were glowing bright red..."
The simplest analogy that comes to mind is how a paperclip gets hot to the touch when you bend it back and forth. Could an underwired sports bra similarly overheat and catch fire during exercise?? It's a disconcerting thought, but my wife has disabused me of the idea, explaining that the positioning of the wire supports would not subject them to such stresses, which would more likely be borne by the conventional elastic components of the bra. The flammability of the bras in the report likely represents susceptibility during washing/drying or the application of external flames.

I couldn't find a suitable photo to accompany this post, although Googling various combinations of brassiere and fire produced some interesting results...

2 comments:

  1. I'm hoping you are being facetious in your comment, but if not, synthetic materials in bras are the same reason Marines have made synthetic underclothes off-limits. When they burn, they stick to the skin, making the burn even worse than had the service member just been wearing a cotton t-shirt.

    http://www.defensetech.org/archives/002325.html

    And since the Swedish military has no restrictions on the positions, including combat, that women may hold, the potential for harm is the same as for men. The Swedes are absolutely deploying women to Afghanistan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJWMg63xtFA .

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  2. Leighsah is absolutely right. The use of synthetic materials in any flammable high-risk environment is totally unconscionable. I do hope that USA Defense, police and firemen codes clearly delineate same. The Swedish Defense Department should be severely admonished.

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