Evaluation of Flame Retardant (FR) and Non-FR Materials on Fire and Smoke Toxicity of Furniture

This study evaluated fire retardant (FR) versus non-FR sofas and found that FR treated foam does not appear to increase the chronic or acute toxicity of the smoke in a fire compared to non-FR treated foam.

Notably, the results suggested that flexible polyurethane foams (both flame retardant and non-flame retardant) smoke toxicity is less than or equal to that created by wood on a mass/mass basis; and wood contributes a significantly greater mass percentage to residential fires and is therefore a much greater contributor to residential fire smoke toxicity.1 Source: Blais, Matthew, and Karen Carpenter. “Flexible polyurethane foams: a comparative measurement of toxic vapors and other toxic emissions in controlled combustion environments of foams with and without fire retardants.” Fire Technology 51.1 (2015): 3-18.

Key Takeaways:

  • Use of a barrier material with a non-flame retardant foam resulted in the most toxic smoke.  
  • The use of the flame retardant foam in combination with a good barrier material reduces the toxic gas emission under small open flame ignition conditions.
  • The dioxin and furan data indicates that there is not an increase in emission for chlorine containing flame retardant foam.  
  • The flame retardant foam generated more smoke than non-flame retardant foam, which was consistent with the data generated in the smoke box. There were also more products of incomplete combustion.
  • Ignition source size does matter. The exposed flame retardant foam required a higher flame to achieve sustained ignition versus a non-flame retardant foam.