By Dr. Cameron Chai
According to a new research presented at American Chemical Society’s 243rd National Meeting & Exposition, certain flame retardants, which are included in furniture upholstery, carpets, crib mattresses, plastics, cars, airline seats and other related products to curb flames, are in fact raising the risk of invisible poisonous gases that are the major cause of fire deaths.
The research, which was headed by Anna A. Stec, Ph.D. from the University of Central Lancashire, Centre for Fire and Hazards Science, Lancashire, U.K., concentrated on the most extensively used flame retardants that include bromine, a chemical element. These flame retardants have been termed as halogen-based flame retardants because bromine belongs to a set of elements known as halogens.
According to Stec, such flame retardants are efficient in minimizing the flammability of materials. On the other hand, they tend to raise the quantities of hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide produced at the time of combustion. These gases are the primary cause of death in fires. Stec delivered a presentation at the American Chemical Society symposium on ‘Fire and Polymers’.
In industrialized countries, about 10,000 deaths occur from fires every year, including roughly 3,500 in the U.S. alone. Inhaling poisonous gases that are released by igniting materials causes maximum number of deaths and grave injuries.
On this note, Stec’s research team studied the effects of flame retardants on those gases. The team tested bromine-based flame retardants with mineral-based flame retardants, antimony synergists and intumescent agents, which get enlarged upon heating, creating a barrier so that flames cannot enter.
In contrast to halogen-based retardants, fire retardants that are based on minerals have minimum effect on fire toxicity. Majority of intumescent fire retardants minimize the quantity of toxic gases released in a fire.