Reconciling chemical flame retardant exposure and fire risk in domestic furniture

Whaley, Paul, Wattam, Stephen, Bedford, Clare orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6897-3293, Bell, Nia, Harrad, Stuart, Jones, Nicola orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-1985-5266, Kirkbride, Thomas, Naldzhiev, Dzhordzhio, Payne, Elena et al (2023) Reconciling chemical flame retardant exposure and fire risk in domestic furniture. PLOS ONE, 18 (11).

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Introduction: Evidence suggests that standards for resistance of furniture to ignition may lead to an increase in use of chemical flame retardants (CFRs). This is motivating the development of new approaches that maintain high levels of fire safety while facilitating a reduction in use of CFRs. However, reconciling potential fire risk with use of CFRs in relation to specific policy objectives is challenging. Objectives: To inform the development of a new policy in the UK for the fire safety of furniture, we developed for domestic furniture quantitative models of fire risk and potential for CFR exposure. We then combined the models to determine if any lower fire risk, higher CFR exposure categories of furniture were identifiable. Methods: We applied a novel mixed-methods approach to modelling furniture fire risk and CFR exposure in a data-poor environment, using literature-based concept mapping, qualitative research, and data visualisation methods to generate fire risk and CFR exposure models and derive furniture product rankings. Results: Our analysis suggests there exists a cluster of furniture types including baby and infant products and pillows that have comparable overall properties in terms of lower fire risk and higher potential for CFR exposure. Discussion: There are multiple obstacles to reconciling fire risk and CFR use in furniture. In particular, these include a lack of empirical data that would allow absolute fire risk and exposure levels to be quantified. Nonetheless, it seems that our modelling method can potentially yield meaningful product clusters, providing a basis for further research.

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