One report had trousers that were hanging on a washing line starting to smoke. There were also several reports of trousers exploding while farmers were wearing them, causing severe burns.
The mystery of the exploding breeches was solved by James Watson of Massey University, New Zealand, whose research found that sodium chlorate becomes violently explosive when combined with organic fibres, such as cotton or wool. For his research, Mr. Watson was awarded the 2005 IgNobel Prize in agricultural history.
Each of these were put to four different ignition methods: flame, radiant heat, friction and impact.
Although not naming "the herbicide" as sodium chlorate, they confirmed that trousers would indeed vigorously combust due to flame, radiant heat and impact (but not friction). However, combustion is not the same as an explosion, which requires compression and a detonation. Even so, a person witnessing such an event (especially if he or she were wearing the trousers) would likely describe the event as an explosion.
The tests also revealed that none of the other three substances caused combustion of the trousers, thus indicating that sodium chlorate was almost certainly responsible for the events that occurred.
ABC's The Science Show described exploding trousers as "the scenario for a Goon Show", and, in an example of art imitating life, it actually was. The Goons wrote a script about a chemical which "when applied to the tail of a military soldier shirt, is tasteless, colourless, and odourless" but that "The moment the wearer sits down, the heat from his body causes the chemical to explode.".