Liquid fabric softener may make clothes more flammable: Quebec coroner

A Quebec coroner is warning consumers fabric softener may make certain materials more flammable.

Ren-Maurice Blanger says the problem may have led to the death of a Quebec woman.

Blanger says fleece and terrycloth may be more susceptible than other materials.

Last September, Janine Humbelt burned to death after she dropped a cigarette on her dressing gown. The robe caught fire.

Blanger says the garment burned very quickly because Humbelt had washed it in fabric softener.

He says he got a tipped off by a study published in Consumer Reports magazine.

"Fabric tends to burn much more severely with fabric softener on there. Now this is with liquid fabric softener, the dryer sheets do not have an effect," says Blanger.

The magazine study showed fleece and terrycloth fabrics treated with liquid softener can burn up to six or seven times faster than untreated material.

Blanger says he has ordered a forensic study of the woman's robe. He will wait for the results before releasing his recommendations.

He points out that regulations are already in place but don't go far enough.

"It's for that reason that those kind of tissues, terrycloth and fleece, are not accepted for a baby's garment."

Huntingdon Mills, a company that distributes much of Canada's fleece, says it is important to make a distinction between cotton and polyester fleece. The company says cotton is more likely to catch fire.