Image by colleendowd on flickr.
One of my New Year's resolution-ish thingys (I never keep New Year's resolutions but maybe I'll manage to keep them if I don't actually call them that) is to avoid as many dangerous chemicals as possible in food and household products, particularly where the kids are concerned. This morning, while sitting in the dentist's office waiting for the dental hygienist (when actually I was supposed to be sitting in the optometrist''s office waiting for the optemetrist's assistant, but that's another story) I happened upon this passage in Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things:
The creation of the first flammability regulations to protect consumers was brought about by a series of deadly fires caused by new ingredients in fabrics in the years following World War II. During the Christmas season of 1951, "torch sweaters" became all the rage. The sweaters were made of brushed rayon and in some circumstances would explode when a spark was dropped on them. Children were also affected. In one case young Michael Blessington was burned to death when his "Gene Autry" cowboy suit caught fire. It turns out that the chaps in the suit were made of flammable rayon. The worst and perhaps most bizarre incident involved a woman who was critically burned when the netted underskirt in her ball gown exploded. The underskirt was made from nitrocellulose (the basis of gunpowder) and ignited in a rather dramatic fashion at a New Year's Eve party.
I wonder if Aimee Bender, author of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, had heard about that woman in the exploding ball gown when she wrote her story.