Richard Hull, University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), pointed to recent major fires which illustrate the considerable fire load, smoke emissions and structural dangers related to the combustibility of modern building materials (see photos).
Ancarano sandwich panel factory fire 29th March 2016
Wiesenhof chicken factory fire 28th March 2016
Prof. Hull explained that toxic gases are the main cause of occupant deaths in fires in the UK, and that over the last 30 years the number of fire deaths and injuries from burns has considerably decreased, whilst the number of deaths and injuries from toxic gases has only started to decrease more recently. Most fire tests do not give relevant data about fire toxicity, because they are carried out in well-ventilated conditions, whereas real fires are nearly always under-ventilated: small fires because they are in enclosed spaces, and large fires because air cannot access the burning material fast enough. This leads to incomplete combustion favouring production of carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen cyanide (HCN), smoke, soot and long-term toxic chemicals and carcinogens, such as poly aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). The SSTF (steady state tube furnace, ISO TS 19700) enables toxic gas emissions to be quantified in both well-ventilated and under-ventilated conditions.