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The Need for FR's

Flame retardants contribute directly to the saving of lives.

“In just four minutes, a sofa fire can engulf an entire room in flames, filling the home with thick, dark smoke and toxic gases. Temperatures can exceed 1,400°C in this short period of time” US National Fire Protection Association A burning non fire safety treated sofa can result in peak heat releases of 2,000 … 3 000 kW and temperatures of 2,000 °C in the flame plume, for example reaching heat releases of 1,500 kW after 4 minutes and 3,600 kW after 6 minutes.

Such heat releases will result within minutes in “flashover” in domestic rooms, such as in houses – that is the fire gas and smoke in a room reaches temperatures such that all combustible materials in the room will ignite (around 600°C), so that death of room occupants is inevitable.

A recent study10 by NIST (US National Institute for Science and Technology) shows that “escape times” (time between start of a fire and reaching untenable conditions or flash over) have dropped drastically, from 17 minutes in 1975 to 3 minutes today (2004). The test confirmed that fire tests on both (non flame retarded) chairs and mattresses reaching “untenable conditions” in rooms (such that escape for room occupants had become impossible) after just 3 minutes. This study confirms that the increasing fire load of consumer products and home decorations is effectively making home fires increasingly dangerous, to a point where fire alarms sounding will often not provide adequate time for occupants to escape. Flame retardants are thus increasingly critical to slow fire spread and development. 

In most cases polymers initiate or propagate fires as they are organic compounds which decompose into volatile combustible products when are exposed to heat However, in many areas such as transportation, construction etc., the use of polymers is restricted by their flammability and the use of these polymers has greatly increased the "fire risk" and the "fire hazard" . In order for these polymers to be used in these applications flame retardants need to be incorporated into the polymer to allow the polymer to pass the given flammability test. 

The role of these Flame Retardants is to:
  • Inhibit or slow down ignition
  • Slow down polymer combustion and degradation
  • Reduce smoke emission (major cause of deaths in fires)
  • Avoid dripping (flaming drips spread fire)in order to increase the escape time of the occupants of buildings or transportation .

 The severity of the regulations will depend on the time needed to escape a given environment.

Minutes can mean the difference between life and death.

As the use of flame retardant is mainly driven by legislation, regulation and testing take a critical part in the approval processes and the developments.