Posted on 12/09/2022 in Furniture & Textiles Fire Safety 2022
Do flame retardants impact smoke toxicity?

Furnished room fire tests conclude that flame retardants do not increase smoke toxicity. The room tests are described in Blais 2020 (see pinfa Newsletter n°104). Nine rooms (five gave useable smoke toxicity data) were furnished with a couch, an armchair, a flat-panel TV, coffee table, bookshelf and books. Different fire sources were placed on the couch. Furniture was purchased for rooms in the UK, France and the UK, so that only the UK rooms would have flame-retarded upholstered furniture. The Blais 2020 study concluded that the UK Furniture Fire Safety Regulations were effective in that time before black smoke was five times longer in the UK room, total smoke produced was half, peak heat release rate was lower, and smoke toxicity was lower (PAHs, hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide). This second publication (2022) provides more detailed information on smoke toxicity using ToxTracker and analysis of individual VOCs and SVOCs (volatile and semi-volatile organic carbons). Results for individual chemicals are very variable, suggesting that this may depend on case-by-case fire conditions in individual rooms. Nonetheless, the authors conclude that the UK-furnished (flame retardant upholstered furniture) room generally produced fewer and lower levels of SVOCs, in particular for carcinogenic SVOCs, and for SVOCs activating aryl hydrocarbon hydroaxylase (AhR).

Evaluation of potential toxicity of smoke from controlled burns of furnished rooms – effect of flame retardancy”, T. Osimitz, W. Droege, M. Blais, J Toxicology & Env Health, part A, vol. 85, n°19, 783-797, 2022 , supported by NAFRA (North America Flame Retardant Alliance)
“Industry study casts doubt on theory flame retardants increase smoke toxicity”, Chemical Watch 12/08/2022.
Photo: room with US-purchased furniture (non flame-retarded couch and armchair) at 8 ½ minutes: room is in flashover with all contents burning and the whole laboratory has filled with smoke
See also: “Comparative Room Burn Study of Furnished Rooms from the United Kingdom, France and the United States”, M. Blais, K. Carpenter, K. Fernandez, Southwest Research Institute (SWRI), USA. Fire Technology, pp. 1-26, 2019

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