June 30th, 2005 08:31 AM
Second Chance Body Armor No Good
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- Battered by lawsuits, the nation's top supplier of bullet-resistant police vests is urging its customers to replace vests containing the synthetic fiber Zylon, saying they may not be safe.
Second Chance Body Armor Inc. said Wednesday that tests suggested the vests ''may fail to perform and result in serious injury or death.'' The company sent warnings to police agencies nationwide.
The company previously recalled more than 130,000 vests made entirely with Zylon. The latest warning covers vests with filling blends containing any amount of the fiber, including about 58,000 Tri-Flex vests and an additional 40,000 Ultima and Ultimax vests with Performance Pacs. The vests are used by police officers and some government officials but not by the military.
Second Chance, undergoing reorganization in federal bankruptcy court, did not recall its remaining Zylon vests because it doesn't have the money to replace them, company attorney Doug Wagner said.
He added that it's possible the company could tap a federal body armor fund to replace the vests.
''While Second Chance has not received any reports of field failures of the products in question, we felt it was our obligation to report these new research findings immediately,'' said Matt Davis, the company's vice president of sales and marketing.
''The safety and well-being of all the officers who wear our body armor is of primary importance to Second Chance,'' he said.
The National Association of Police Organizations, which has filed a class-action suit against Second Chance, said the company should have discovered the problem sooner.
''If there's any chance that these vests could fail at all, beyond the normal effectiveness rating of a bulletproof vest, they have to be recalled,'' said John Terrill, spokesman for the coalition of police unions and associations.
The International Organization of Police Chiefs called on the Justice Department to finish an 18-month study of body armor degradation and release its findings.
''Our concern is that police officers not take their vests off, that we can assure them they can put on a vest that will keep them safe regardless of what it's made of,'' said Joe Estey, the group's president.
Toyobo Co., the Japanese manufacturer of Zylon, has acknowledged the fiber loses up to 20 percent of its durability within two years of manufacture. But the company said Zylon works well in body armor that is properly constructed, and is not to blame for any problems with Second Chance vests.
''This comes as a surprise to us that a company that's in bankruptcy and struggling to survive continues to blame Zylon,'' Toyobo spokesman Kent Jarrell said. ''Zylon is being used by many manufacturers and is out there saving lives of police officers.''
Second Chance said the research that prompted its warning was conducted by a chemist retained by the company's legal counsel. The tests detected unexpectedly high levels of acids in the material that ''can lead to a sudden and dramatic loss of tensile strength,'' the company said.
''These test results lead us to believe that even products that contain relatively low percentages of Zylon by weight may fail to perform as expected,'' Davis said.
Second Chance began making vests with Zylon in 1998, saying it was lighter and more comfortable than other fibers used in body armor.
Toyobo notified armor manufacturers in 2001 that Zylon degrades under prolonged exposure to high temperatures and humidity. Second Chance recalled the vests made entirely of Zylon two years later, after an officer was killed and another was wounded when bullets penetrated their vests.
Seven states have lawsuits pending against Second Chance. An additional 10 class-action suits have been filed on behalf of individuals and police agencies. Second Chance is also suing Toyobo, which is a defendant in some of the other suits.
Central Lake, Michigan, June 22, 2005 - In a decision to protect the lives of public safety officers, Second Chance Body Armor is recommending the immediate replacement of any of its bullet-resistant vests containing Zylon® fiber.
The country’s largest manufacturer of body armor has issued two safety notices to police departments across the nation after new research from one of the nation’s leading polymer chemists has shown that protective vests constructed only partially from Zylon may fail to perform and result in serious injury or death. The safety notices, which are available at www.secondchance.com, urge all officers who own and wear Tri-Flex vests or Ultima and Ultimax vests with Performance Pacs to replace these vests immediately with products that do not contain Zylon.
The safety notices will affect approximately 58,000 Tri-Flex vests and an additional 40,000 Ultima and Ultimax vests with Performance Pacs. Until the affected vests are replaced, officers should continue to wear their vests.
Second Chance, which is currently going through a reorganization in the bankruptcy court, plans to petition the bankruptcy court for a procedure for police departments and safety officers to present claims that may result from this new information. Additionally, Second Chance has contacted the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program to request that this federally funded program take immediate action to help with financing replacement vests.
“While Second Chance has not received any reports of field failures of the products in question, we felt it was our obligation to report these new research findings immediately,” said Matt Davis, vice president of sales and marketing. “The safety and well-being of all the officers who wear our body armor is of primary importance to Second Chance and we strongly encourage all officers to replace ballistic vests that contain Zylon as quickly as possible.
“The problems associated with Zylon are not specific to Second Chance – these problems are industry-wide and demand an industry-wide solution. We have approached the National Institute of Justice, which is involved in an ongoing investigation of Zylon-based body armor, with our concerns. Additionally, we are aggressively pursuing litigation against the fiber’s manufacturer, Toyobo Co., Ltd., in an effort to recover funds that can be used to provide a remedy to affected police departments and safety officers.”
Zylon first debuted in the body armor industry in the late 1990s as a lighter and more wearable alternative to aramid fabrics such as Kevlar®. After extensive testing by both Second Chance and Toyobo, Second Chance introduced its first products using Zylon in 1998.
In September 2003, ongoing testing of used vests containing only Zylon showed degradation problems with the fiber that potentially shortened the wearable life of the vest. Based on these tests, Second Chance was the first manufacturer to recall vests made entirely of Zylon – a decision echoed by its top competitors within the next two years. Products that contain a blend of Zylon and other protective fibers were not implicated in this research and remained on the market.
The recall, which affected more than 130,000 vests, pushed Second Chance into bankruptcy proceedings in October 2004 and prompted numerous lawsuits. Additionally, the National Institute of Justice launched an industry-wide investigation in November 2003 into the vulnerability of Zylon-based bullet-resistant vests.
In the course of this investigation, Second Chance’s legal counsel has retained a leading polymer chemist, formerly of Dow Chemical, to analyze the Zylon fiber used to construct the vests to see if he could identify the cause of premature aging. These test results showed the presence of inordinately high levels of residual process acids – up to eight times the desired level –in the Zylon manufactured by Toyobo. These process acids can lead to a sudden and dramatic loss of tensile strength, even under normal conditions.
This process, which is called “hydrolytic degradation,” potentially reduces the efficacy of the protective nature of the clothing. After carefully reviewing these results with the Department of Justice, Second Chance decided to issue safety notices on its remaining products that contain Zylon.
“These test results lead us to believe that even products that contain relatively low percentages of Zylon by weight may fail to perform as expected,” Davis said. “In our line of business, any potential failure is unacceptable, and we moved immediately to alert our customers – and others within our industry – of this problem.
“In 2003, Second Chance took the lead on the Zylon issue because it was the right thing to do. As new and more detailed information has become available, we are once again taking the lead and speaking out against the use of Zylon in body armor.”
About Second Chance Body Armor
Based in Central Lake, Michigan, Second Chance Body Armor is the nation’s largest manufacturer of modern, wearable, concealable body armor. The Company offers a broad line of corrections armor, tactical armor, special-purpose armor and other ballistic plates, shields and helmets designed to protect and preserve lives. For more information, go to www.secondchance.com.
June 30th, 2005 09:59 AM
This has been a known (and exposed) problem for ~3 years. Lots of data on one of the forums about 3 years ago when I was shopping for a vest.
Most chiefs however ignored the issue and probably still will. That's the reaction I got when I gave a large printout of the problems to my chief. Men/women are expendable, but the brass doesn't have the balls to do the right thing.
Don't get me started on this one!
June 30th, 2005 10:46 AM
DOH!! I need to check out my vest. I had an ABA but was recently issued a new vest. I need to check to see if it has Zylon in it.
July 1st, 2005 12:35 PM
Lens, please don't hang back like that. This is a serious matter not only to Law Enforcement but to civilians who may elect to wear one. I would suggest they contact the CA DOJ who will set up a testing criteria to insure the vests are OK. Then only those vests accredited by the anti-gun DOJ will at least be certified to save lives by the CA DOJ. The movie industry and Law Enforcement would benifit from doing this.
There is so much money available from police unions here to support such a program it would be a success.
As you slide down the banister of life,
May the splinters never point the wrong way.
NRA Life Member
July 1st, 2005 12:42 PM
My new vest is a Second Chance. I say "new". It was issued to a buddy, and he left the department shortly after that. I swapped vests with him.
July 1st, 2005 12:51 PM
Thats not right CombatEffective, Officers should be equiped with tools of the trade that are safe and effective. That includes firearms and whatever else they need. I also believe there should be funds available for special training to secure their safety while on duty, we are not saving money by skimping on support of Officers In the field.
As you slide down the banister of life,
May the splinters never point the wrong way.
NRA Life Member
July 1st, 2005 01:52 PM
I remember back when they (Second Chance) were being sued by State Of PA. but, I never posted it because (to be fair) I did not know the outcome of the trial.
I think there were 2 cases ???? where the 2nd Chance vests failed to stop a projectile when officers were fired on.
I'll see if I can locate the specifics.
I decided to post this after I came across some more recent stuff.
And yes, civilians/shooters/hunters are buying second hand and used AND RETIRED LEO vests on Ebay at reduced prices to wear at the range and while out hunting.
July 1st, 2005 10:05 PM
I have three SC vests, the oldest aproaching 20yoa. I would wear any of them in harms way today, tomorrow, etc. None have Zylon content.
Central Lake Armor Express is a new company owned by the inventer of SBA--Richard Davis. If I needed a new vest, that is where it would come from.
July 1st, 2005 10:25 PM
ya know the orginal vest worked good i remeber the inventor shooting him self pretty much point blank range with a 44 mag that takes some big brass balls to do that
July 1st, 2005 10:43 PM
DOJ Sues Mfr of Body Armor
The next shoe has dropped . . . finally!
Jul 1, 2:21 PM EDT
Government Sues Maker of Body Armor
By MARK SHERMAN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government on Friday sued the top U.S. supplier of bullet-resistant police vests and the Japanese manufacturer of the vests' protective synthetic fiber, contending they conspired to hide evidence that the body armor could be defective.
Second Chance Body Armor Inc. of Central Lake, Mich., and Toyobo Co. knew that the vests' ability to stop bullets was overstated, but Second Chance sold them anyway to local, state and federal police, according to the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington.
The government also alleged that the companies kept silent for nearly three years in the face of mounting evidence that the Zylon fabric degraded faster than they acknowledged when it was exposed to light, heat and humidity.
Only after an Oceanside, Calif., police office was killed and a Forest Hills, Pa., officer was seriously wounded while wearing Second Chance vests made of Zylon in June 2003 did the company stop selling certain models and disclose safety problems, the lawsuit said.
Second Chance executives also ordered the destruction of internal memos, including one that urged the company to take corrective action and not wait until an officer was killed, the lawsuit said.
Second Chance and Toyobo blamed each other Friday for problems with the vests. "Second Chance was the bad actor, not Toyobo," said Kent Jarrell, a spokesman for Toyobo.
Mary Ann Sabo, a Second Chance spokeswoman, said Second Chance has been working closely with the Justice Department and expects to be vindicated. Sabo said Toyobo "is ultimately responsible for the problems with Zylon."
Questions about the vests, initially praised for their strength and light weight, were first raised by a whistle-blower, Second Chance's former director of research and development.
Second Chance is facing more than a dozen suits by states, police agencies and individuals. Last week, the company acknowledged that the Zylon vests may not be safe and urged its customers to replace nearly 100,000 vests that had not previously been recalled.
A company lawyer has said Second Chance did not recall its remaining Zylon vests because the company did not have the money to replace them. The lawyer said it was possible the company could tap a federal body-armor fund to replace the vests.
The company, now going through reorganization in federal bankruptcy court, earlier recalled more than 130,000 vests.
Second Chance also is suing Toyobo, which is a defendant in some of the other suits.
Toyobo has acknowledged that the fiber loses up to 20 percent of its durability within two years of manufacture. But the company has said Zylon works well in body armor that is properly constructed, and it contends it is not to blame for any problems with Second Chance vests.
July 1st, 2005 11:24 PM
Tricky business to be in that's for sure. Fortunes to be made if all is gotten right but - get a problem and - hell to pay.
Chris - P95
NRA Certified Instructor & NRA Life Member.
"To own a gun and assume that you are armed
is like owning a piano and assuming that you are a musician!."
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