Posted on 07/03/2017 in News 32 2017
Identification of VOCs in house fire smoke

A house due for demolition was used to carry out 13 room fire tests: 2 with kitchen cooking oil, 7 with a burning sofa and 4 in furnished rooms (2 kitchen, 2 sofa in lounge).

The sofa was flame retarded to UK Furniture Fire Safety Regulations standards. Qualitative analysis of (semi) volatile organic carbon (VOC) chemicals was carried out in fire gases, aerosol soot in these gases and in condensed particles, during fire start, development and after combustion. Quantitative measurements were not made, only presence or not of each chemical. Benzo(a)pyrene was detected in both gases and post-combustion soot in nearly all burns, as were another 21 IARC classified (cancer risk) compounds, in particular anthracene, benzo(ghi)perylene, indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene, fluoranthene, naphthalene, phenanthrene and pyrene – as can be expected in any carbon-rich, under-ventilated fire. 10 organic phosphorus compounds, flame retardants or FR breakdown compounds, were analysed. One or more of these was detected in either fire gases or condensed soot in only 7 out of 10 of the burns involving sofas, but not in post-combustion soot. Only two FRs TCPP* and TBEP* were detected in smoke or soot in more than 3/10 burns. Because results are only qualitative (presence or not) with no quantification, no conclusions can be drawn concerning exposure or risk.

“Release of volatile and semi-volatile toxicants during house fires”, F. Hewitt et al., Chemosphere (2017) 

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