Posted on 15/01/2016 in News 32 2016
Smoke fatalities and smoke toxicity

James Robinson, Fire Safe Europe, underlined that fire kills 12 people every day in the EU, and costs 126 billion €/year. An important problem is the lack of adequate fire statistics in nearly all countries. What fire data does exist is not comparable, and so nearly impossible to use to identify best practices or to define fire safety strategy actions.

This should be addressed by ISO/TR 17755 (Fire Safety) and this work should be supported and pushed forward.

The Construction Products Regulation (CPR, EC/305/2011) does however represent a significant step forward in building fire safety in Europe, by ensuring harmonised building product fire safety performance standards and tests, including concerning smoke density. Some aspects however need further specification, for example the CPR does not define tests for ETICs (see above). Mr.Robinson underlined the importance of smoke emission is in fire safety, indicating two very different issues. On the one hand, over half of fire deaths are due to smoke. Incapacitating gases in smoke can prevent escape for occupants. However, if occupants do escape, then they generally have no long term effects from smoke. On the other hand, firefighters are repeatedly exposed to smoke and soot, which contain a number of potentially carcinogenic substances. This may contribute to the proven increased risk of cancer and shortened life expectancy for fire fighters.

Polymers and fibres, in a wide range of products from computers to natural fibres, decompose in fire. Some flame retardants which reduce heat release rates or inhibit reactions in fire gases can lead to an increase in carbon monoxide production in fires and increase smoke hazard to occupants (incomplete combustion products). ISO 13571 can estimate the impact of fire on evacuation time based on the concentrations of the most relevant hazardous components (like smoke, CO and HCN and irritant and/or incapacitating gases). It is suggested to integrate such an approach into the Construction Products Regulation. Some molecules act to reduce heat release but at the expense of increased smoke potency. This can be avoided by using an appropriate material + flame retardant combination designed to provide the required end product performance.

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