Flame retardants are products in a home that contain chemicals to decrease or eliminate their flammability, and they work in three different ways to inhibit or minimize the severity of a fire. A flame retardant will decrease the presence of oxygen as well as gasses located close to items that are burning. It will inhibit a material’s ability to ignite. Flame retardants also provide a layer of fire resistant material on a product.
1. Fire Prevention
Flame retardants are able to provide a number of consumers products with an essential layer of fire protection. According to FireTect, flame retardants are able to stop fires from starting as well as limit their spread and decrease the amount of damage resulting from a fire. Some are designed to work on their own and others act as a synergist. This means they can increase the fire protective abilities of other types of flame retardants. Product manufacturers use a variety of flame retardants. The materials are very different in their chemical composition and physical nature. Various flame retardants react in different ways with fire. This is why so much care is taken to carefully match a flame retardant to the correct material. They all interact at various stages of a fire’s cycle. A home today contains a number electronic devices such as computers, televisions, microwaves and more. This has resulted in high amounts of composite and plastic materials available in a home. It has significantly increased the fire hazard potential. Flame retardants are becoming increasingly essential to minimize fire damage. They have been able to provide sufficient safety protection for people inside a house so they can easily escape when a fire has started.
2. Decrease Fire Damage
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) estimates that over 1,300,000 fires occur each year in the United States. This results in approximately 3,000 civilian deaths annually. Fires are responsible for over 17,000 civilian injuries annually and cause more than $12 billion in property damage. Experts know using flame retardants can decrease fire ignition opportunities by increasing what is needed to start a fire. Flame retardants are also able to slow or eliminate a fire from spreading. They are able to delay a flashover. This is a fireball that can happen quickly when heat combines with the release of flammable gasses. When a fireball happens, automatic combustion occurs. When a flashover is able to be delayed, it decreases the intensity and rate of burn. This provides essential time for people to escape a house engulfed in flames. Flame retardants are the unseen protection able to minimize or eliminate the devastating effects of a fire. Flame retardants started to be regularly used in the 1970s. Since then, the number of serious fires has decreased by more than 90 percent. The number of people being injured as a result of fires has gone down by more than 34 percent, and the number of deaths related to house fires has gone down by over 56 percent.
3. Filling Material
According to NFPA, upholstered furniture is responsible for over 20 percent of all deaths resulting from a home fire. Many of the new materials used in a variety of furniture products are extremely flammable. The furniture located in many homes is more dangerous than ever before. The NFPA, as well as International Code Council, are working with a number of states to require materials used in the manufacturing of furniture meet certain specified flame retardant standards. There were a number of studies conducted during the 1980s concerning flame retardants. The ignition tests were done on various types of upholstery as well as other types of furniture. These studies involved a variety of retardant formulations. Studies showed that the two key indicators of fire danger are heat release as well as time of the heat release. Polyurethane foam filling was much more flammable than cotton fillings. These studies showed that a flame retardant could be used as an effective tool for filling material. It will significantly decrease the ability of the material to ignite. There was also success with open flame testing with filling material. A high level of scrutiny is being given to developing open-flame standards that can be met by adding organohalogen flame retardants. This material can be successfully used with the foam or plastic items found in most homes.