Doubts about the long-term reliability of Zylon, a fabric used in bulletproof vests, have prompted New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey to urge police chiefs to buy vests made from a different material, says the Newark Star-Ledger. About 100 New Jersey police departments use Zylon vests made by American Body Armor Holdings Inc. of Florida. The company admits that its Xtreme ZX vests II and IIIA last 30 months, not 60 months as guaranteed. “In the past two years, there have been three shootings involving Zylon vests. One officer (in California) died,” Harvey said. “These vests don’t seem to provide protection after a couple of years. We don’t want our officers to get killed using an inferior product.”
Some departments use vests made from Kevlar. Another manufacturer, Second Chance Body Armor, switched from Zylon to Kevlar last year after a Pennsylvania police officer was seriously wounded wearing a Zylon vest. Nationwide, about 25,000 Zylon vests made by American Body Armor are in circulation. The oldest are around 4 years old. The National Institute of Justice has confirmed that Zylon degrades. In tests on 20 used Zylon vests, bullets penetrated 10 of them. “NIJ testing will determine whether the vests were ever up to the minimum standard, whether Zylon degrades and if so, why,” said Catherine Sanders, NIJ spokeswoman. “We want to know, is it reliable?” The institute hopes to release results early next year.