Flame retardants in UK furniture increase smoke toxicity more than they reduce fire growth rate

Mckenna, Sean Thomas, Birtles, Robert, Dickens, Kathryn orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-0925-1538, Walker, Richard George, Spearpoint, Michael J, Stec, Anna A orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6861-0468 and Hull, T Richard orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-7970-4208 (2018) Flame retardants in UK furniture increase smoke toxicity more than they reduce fire growth rate. Chemosphere, 196 . pp. 429-439. ISSN 0045-6535

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2017.12.017


This paper uses fire statistics to show the importance of fire toxicity on fire deaths and injuries, and the importance of upholstered furniture and bedding on fatalities from unwanted fires. The aim was to compare the fire hazards (fire growth and smoke toxicity) using different upholstery materials. Four compositions of sofa-bed were compared: three meeting UK Furniture Flammability Regulations (FFR), and one using materials without flame retardants intended for the mainland European market. Two of the UK sofa-beds relied on chemical flame retardants to meet the FFR, the third used natural materials and a technical weave in order to pass the test. Each composition was tested in the bench-scale cone calorimeter (ISO 5660) and burnt as a whole sofa-bed in a sofa configuration in a 3.4 × 2.25 × 2.4 m3 test room. All of the sofas were ignited with a No. 7 wood crib; the temperatures and yields of toxic products are reported. The sofa-beds containing flame retardants burnt somewhat more slowly than the non-flame retarded EU sofa-bed, but in doing so produced significantly greater quantities of the main fire toxicants, carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide. Assessment of the effluents' potential to incapacitate and kill is provided showing the two UK flame retardant sofa-beds to be the most dangerous, followed by the sofa-bed made with European materials. The UK sofa-bed made only from natural materials (Cottonsafe®) burnt very slowly and produced very low concentrations of toxic gases. Including fire toxicity in the FFR would reduce the chemical flame retardants and improve fire safety. [Abstract copyright: Crown Copyright © 2017. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.]

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