TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- The nation's largest supplier of bullet-resistant vests to law enforcement agencies is urging its customers to replace vests containing the fiber Zylon, saying the vests may not be safe.
New research indicates that vests made even partially with Zylon ''may fail to perform and result in serious injury or death," the company said.
Second Chance, based in Central Lake, Mich., is undergoing reorganization in federal bankruptcy court after being targeted in lawsuits contending that its vests made with Zylon are defective.
The company said it would ask the court to devise a procedure for vest owners to make claims arising from the latest warnings.
''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," said Matt Davis, the company's vice president of sales and marketing.
Second Chance began making vests with Zylon in 1998, saying it was lighter and more comfortable than other fibers used in body armor. The company announced in 2003 that it had concerns about the durability of Zylon vests and recalled more than 130,000 of them made entirely with the fiber.
The latest notice pertains to vests containing a mixture of Zylon and other materials.
Lawsuits against Second Chance have been filed in at least 11 states and federal and state investigations have been started. Seven lawsuits have been filed by state governments, including Massachusetts.
Zylon is manufactured by Toyobo Co., a Japanese company also targeted in numerous lawsuits. Toyobo has acknowledged that tests show Zylon loses 10 percent to 20 percent of its durability within two years of manufacture. But the company says the fiber works well in body armor that is properly constructed.