Posted on 19/06/2024 in Fire Safety Regulatory 2024
UBA report: environment friendly fire safety

Flame retardants are identified as one route to fire safety in public purchasing and can be without hazards. The German Federal Environment Agency (Umwelt Bundesamt, UBA) report assesses fire safety requirements for public purchasing of PPE (personal protective equipment), work clothing and shoes, textiles, furniture mattresses and floorings. It is noted that fire protection is not a legal requirement in public spaces for all of these. The report notes that public purchasers should verify if fire safety is legally required, and that fire safety can sometimes be achieved by using inherently non-flammable materials. Where this is not possible, flame retardants can ensure fire safety. The report assesses thirty-one flame retardants identified as widely used in the products considered. The report concludes that nine FRs are acceptable for use because they are considered non-toxic, non-persistent, non-bioaccumulative, non-hazardous*.

pinfa questions this approach which ignores low exposure to flame retardants which are integrated into polymers, so have low risk (risk = possible effects on health or the environment, is related to both chemical properties and to exposure). In particular, a number of reactive flame retardants are excluded because of their chemical properties, despite that these FRs are no longer present in the final product and so their initial chemical properties are no longer relevant.

pinfa welcomes the emphasis in the report placed on smoke emission and toxicity. Smoke is often the main cause of fire deaths, incapacitating and preventing escape. Studies show that smoke toxicity is generally not increased by PIN flame retardants**, and smoke emission is mainly linked to the quantities of material burning, which can be reduced by flame retardants.

* ammonium polyphosphate, ammonium phosphate, resorcinol bisdiphenyl phosphate, melamine polyphosphate, aluminium hydroxide, expandable graphite, zirconium acetate, ammonium sulphamate, ammonium bromide.

** see e.g. Feuchter et al., summarised in pinfa Newsletter n°149.

“Brandschutzanforderungen für Textilien, Möbel und Matratzen in öffentlichen Einrichtungen: Welche Regelungen bestehen undwie können diese erfüllt werden?” (Fire-safety requirements for textiles, furniture, mattresses in public facilities. What requirements exist, how can they be fulfilled?), 189 pages, in German (one page English summary), UBA 71/2024

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