Posted on 19/02/2018 in Furniture & Textiles News 32 2018
Fire test comparison of FR and non-FR furniture

Four items of mock furniture were fire tested, first using samples in cone calorimeter, then duplicated (2 test) full-scale in an enclosure similar to a 3.4 x 2.3 m room, ignition by n°7 wood crib. The mock furniture consisted of 1.9 x 1.5 x 0.15m mattress (foam, comfort layer, fabric) mounted as a back and seat on a 2m metal frame.

Four configurations were tested: three with polyurethane foam, polyester comfort layer and covering fabric, of which one UK-sourced (FR foam and fabric), one China-sourced (again FR foam and fabric), one EU (non FR); and a different configuration (UK-sourced polycotton pad, wool comfort layer, cotton+wool cover fabric, non FR). Results for time to ignition (2 -9 minutes) were variable and are not considered useful by the authors. For the three comparable mock sofas (synthetic materials), maximum temperatures reached in the room were considerably higher for the non-FR tests (540 – 600 vs. 280 – 370 °C). The wool-cotton based (non foam) sofa also reached lower temperatures (170-220 °C). Results for emissions of incapacitating gasses (CO and HCN) are also variable for the synthetic materials: the UK-FR sofa showing highest emissions (only one test result), followed one of the non-FR tests, then the China-FR sofa (only one test), then the other non-FR. The wool-cotton sofa showed the lowest emissions. The paper also includes a comparison of fire statistics between the UK (with furniture fire safety regulations since 1988) and New Zealand (without). Overall, the authors conclude that “Including fire toxicity in the FFR [Furniture Fire Safety Regulations] would reduce the chemical flame retardants and improve fire safety.”

“Flame retardants in UK furniture increase smoke toxicity more than they reduce fire growth rate”, S. McKenna, R. Birtles, K. Dickens, R. Walker, M. Spearpoint, A. Stec & R. Hull, Chemosphere 20397 in press 2017

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