Flame Retardants

The flame retardants Great Lakes Solutions produces are a modern solution to an age-old problem: fire.

  • Flame retardants not only prevent fires from starting, but if a fire does occur, they slow down the spread of the fire and improve the opportunity for safe escape.1
  • Flame retardant products studied provide a 15 times greater escape time compared to non-flame retardant treated products.1 
  • Flame retardant treated products had a 3-4 times lower heat release rate relative to the non-flame retardant product tests.1 
  • Flame retardant treated products had a lower quantity of toxic gases released relative to the non-flame retardant product tests.1 
  • Between 1977 and 2009, civilian fire deaths declined from 7,395 to 3,010, respectively.1 
  • Between 1978 (three years after TB117 was implemented) and 1995, the number of upholstered furniture fires declined by 68.4 percent. 
  • Between 1978 (three years after TB117 was implemented) and 1995, the number of deaths in the United States where upholstered furniture was the first item to be ignited declined by 58.1 percent.1 

1North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA)

The science of flame retardants:  what are flame retardants?

The term "flame retardant" refers to the function of an additive or component within a material to make that material more resistant to ignition, or reduce the rate that a flame will spread once the material is ignited. A variety of chemicals, with varying properties and structures, act as flame retardants and these chemicals are often combined for effectiveness to help prevent or reduce the severity of fires. Click here to read about the different classes of flame retardants.

How do flame retardants work?

Flame retardants are added to different materials to prevent fires from starting, limit the spread of fire and minimize fire damage.  Flame retardants can act in three key ways to stop the burning process:

  1. Disrupt the combustion stage, including avoiding or delaying "flashover," or the burst of flames that engulfs a room and makes it much more difficult to escape.
  2. Limit the process of decomposition by physically insulating the available fuel sources from the material source with a fire-resisting "char" layer.
  3. Dilute the flammable gases and oxygen concentrations in the flame formation zone by emitting water, nitrogen or other inert gases.

What types of products use flame retardants?

Today, flame retardants are used predominantly in four major areas:

  • Electronics and Electrical Devices
  • Building and Construction Materials
  • Furnishings
  • Transportation

Why are flame retardants important to use?

  • Flame retardants are used to prevent ignition by increasing the threshold required to start a fire.
  • Flame retardants reduce the spread of fire.
  • Flame retardants delay flashover, the "fireball" that can quickly occur when the combined heat and the release of flammable gases cause automatic combustion. Delaying flashover reduces the rate and intensity of burning and increases the amount of time people have to escape.

Some of the information on this page comes from the North American Flame Retardant Alliance (NAFRA). Visit the European Flame Retardant Association (EFRA) to learn more about European fire safety standards.

Television burning test video: demonstrating the need for high fire safety standards

Learn about the fire risks in your television. This video shows the importance of high fire safety standards and the layer of fire protection that flame retardant materials can provide when they are added to consumer electronics. While televisions and the materials used in TVs have changed dramatically over the last decades, the need for fire safety has not. Today, potentially flammable polymeric materials are used in modern flat screen TVs and these can contribute to fires as the first item ignited or as a second article ignited adding to the overall fuel load. 

The video shows two TV sets (same model and brand) manufactured for two different markets. The first one is exposed to a small open flame (50 watts) for just 60 seconds. Within two to three minutes, the TV is engulfed in flames. The second test was performed under identical conditions. It shows the same TV set model exposed to a larger ignition source (500 W) undergoing multiple ignition attempt (60 seconds each). Even after being exposed to a larger flame, the television fails to ignite. The tests were performed by experts of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio, Texas, United States. 

For more information on flame retardants and examples of how flame retardants add a valuable layer to fire safety, visit www.BSEF.com

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