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It’s been more than a decade since the Marines banned the wear of specific synthetic clothing for operations conducted off installation.

Textile innovations with advanced fiber blends have made for a more comfortable feel while remaining cool and dry in most conditions and climates. For operators in the Military and Law Enforcement, these improvements can drastically improve the user’s comfort while working for long hours loaded down with gear. You should also be aware that these benefits can come with hidden risks associated with specific synthetic blends.

Clothing containing synthetic materials like polyester and spandex drastically increase the risk factor for extreme burn injury as these materials can melt and fuse to the skin when exposed to elements that release high heat.

These synthetic fibers are volatile when subjected to thermal flashovers or flames. The chemical makeup of these synthetics allows rapid combustibility as well as melting and dripping, which becomes molten plastic on the skin and can dramatically exacerbate an injury.  

The industry has seen a rise in the use of these unstable synthetic fiber blends seen in inferior (non-FR) versions of combat shirts, base layers, socks, outerwear, etc. The mentality being, if you’re not deployed or working in a job that always requires FR clothing (e.g., aircrew personnel), then what’s the risk to wearing a lower-quality uniform?

Given the substantially alarming uncertainty and high consequence of these dangerous fiber blends, and the reality that risk of exposure to thermal flashovers or flames remain inherent with certain jobs, these fabrics should be avoided in the interest of rational caution. The decision is now easier to make given the emergence of new high-performance blends that are safe, stable, and not exorbitantly priced (e.g., cellulose/nylon blends). Serket’s new No Melt, Tropical-weight Combat Uniform is a safe option to your personal protection.

For those who serve, the goal should always be the reduction of inherent risk, and this is one of those seemingly little choices that could mean the difference between a relatively insignificant incident and life altering trauma.