Benefits of Flame Retardants

Studies show that flame retardants can help stop or slow the spread of fire, depending on the scenario, and provide additional escape time. Experts continue to highlight the life-saving role these chemicals play when they are used in airplanes, cars, building materials and electronics. Flame retardants provide an important layer of protection and help products meet fire safety standards as they are used in innovative ways that make modern life possible. No matter where we go or what we do, chances are our lives are made safer by flame retardants and other fire safety innovations.

What follows are examples illustrating the difference flame retardants make in a variety of sectors.

Furnishings

Flame retardants are used in some cases to meet the open flame standard that is a part of California’s Technical Bulletin 117, which is a flammability standard for upholstered furniture. TB 117 has been an effective standard. In fact, after its implementation in the 1970s furniture fires were cut by two-thirds. A December 2009 government commissioned U.K. analysis of recent fire data offered an endorsement of the country’s strong fire safety regulations requiring flame retardants in furniture and furnishings. The report found: “Both the number and lethality of furniture and furnishing fires rose before the introduction of the regulations and fell afterwards.” It also notes, “The reduction in the rate and lethality of furniture and furnishing fires was estimated to equate to 54 lives saved per year, 780 fewer casualties per year and 1065 fewer fires per year in the period 2003-2007.”

Transportation

After the July 2013 Asiana Airline crash in San Francisco, experts credited flame retardant materials with helping passengers survive the crash. As former FAA director Steven Wallace told the New York Times, “Flame retardant materials inside the plane, including foil wrapping under the seats, most likely helped protect many passengers.” And as the Huffington Post noted, commercial airliners are equipped with a great deal of fire-proofing material, including chemical flame retardants, that “resists the blazes that start after many crashes, including the one in San Francisco.”

The August 2005 fiery crash of a passenger jet in Toronto, Canada, in which all 309 people aboard survived, is another example of the benefits flame retardants provide. On August 5, 2005, the Washington Post reported, “The fire-retardant material now required in aircraft cabins may have helped slow the spread of flames and smoke, enabling all crew members and passengers to escape.” The plane was subject to “new regulations requiring fire-retardant treatment of seat cushions, carpet and other materials…”

Homes & Offices

Modern structures reflect the latest design trends and address growing environmental and energy concerns. They also accommodate our increasing reliance on a variety of electrical and electronic equipment from elevators and escalators to computer and information technology equipment and a host of household appliances. At the same time, the large volume of electrical and electronic equipment in today’s buildings, coupled with plastic and composite materials, increases the potential for fire hazards. Flame retardants are used in a variety of building and construction materials in homes, offices and public buildings, including schools and hospitals, to provide individuals with fire safety protection and additional escape time should a fire start.