Evaluation of Fire Safety Standards for Upholstered Furniture

This study provides insights as to how flame retardant fabrics or foam can and do prevent the transition from a smoldering to flaming event — even when exposed to the strongest ignition source — provided sufficient levels of flame retardants are incorporated in the upholstery fabric or foam.1Source: Morgan AB, Knapp G, Stoliarov SI, Levchik SV. Studying smoldering to flaming transition in polyurethane furniture subassemblies: Effects of fabrics, flame retardants, and material type. Fire and Materials. 2020; 1–12. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Furniture that may meet the smolder test (e.g., cigarette) may still not provide protection from open flame incidents (e.g., candles, space heaters, etc.). 
  • The results from testing found that materials highly prone to smoldering propagated heat into foams and led to ignition, whereas materials that tended to melt back from the ignition source did not.
  • Flame retardant fabrics or foam can and do prevent the transition from smoldering to flaming, providing additional protection is incorporated in furniture designs.
  • Dr. Alexander Morgan’s work will ultimately help furniture manufacturers and policy makers understand how to improve designs and test methods, thereby keeping people safer from the unintended consequence of furniture fires.