Frequently Asked Questions

There are many different types of flame retardants with different chemical names for different applications. Flame retardants decrease the probability of a fire starting (ignition) and slow the rate of the fire’s growth. There are different uses and end markets for flame retardants, such as furniture, electronics, construction and transportation. Albemarle primarily produces flame retardants for use in electronics, construction and transportation.

A recent government-funded study concluded that furniture fire safety standards in the US, such as those found in California, save lives, increase the escape time for a family, and increase the available response time for the arrival of fire personnel[1].  Studies indicate the most effective use of flame retardants in furniture is to combine fire resistant fabric and fire resistant foam[2]. Fire resistant fabric by itself is less effective than in combination with flame retardant foam. Flame retardant foam by itself is less effective than in combination with fire resistant fabric.

Tests conducted by Underwriters Laboratories[3] show that chairs containing fire-resistant barriers burn much slower than chairs without them. These tests also show that fires do not spread as quickly in a simulated living room with chairs containing fire resistant barriers and that some test fires extinguished on their own. Standards that require a combination of fire resistant fabric and flame retardant foam exist today in Great Britain[4]

The introduction of fire-safe furniture in the UK in 1988 resulted in at least 50% reduction in injuries and domestic fire deaths between 1988 and 2002[5]. During the five-year period ending in 2007 compared to the five-year period ending in 1985, Furniture and Furnishings Fire Safety Regulations in Great Britain accounted for 64% fewer deaths per year, 26% fewer non-fatal casualties per year and 37% fewer fires each year[6]. Studies indicate that over 700 British lives were saved in the ten years following the adoption of British Fire Safety Regulations for upholstered furniture in 1988[7].

[1] Matthew Blais, Southwest Research Institute, presentation at Fire Retardants in Plastics 2012, June 15, 2012
[2] Costs and benefits of regulating Fire Safety performance of upholstered furniture in NZ, C.A. Wade, M. Duncanson, D. O’Dea, C.R. Duncan, March 2003
[3] Underwriters Laboratories, Upholstered furniture flammability,
[5] A Guide to the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations,
[6] International Fire Statistics and the Potential Benefits of Fire Counter-Measures, University of Surrey Department of Mathematics and Statistics, May 2005
[7] A statistical report to investigate the effectiveness of the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988, Greenstreet Berman Ltd, December 2009

Underwriters Laboratories sets fire safety standards for plastics in TVs in the US[1].  Fire safety standards for plastics in TVs in Europe are similar to those set in the US[2]. Flame retardants provided by Albemarle and other producers allow manufacturers to meet UL fire standards. Studies demonstrate that flame retardants in TVs are effective in preventing fires[3]

Tests have demonstrated that televisions with housings and back plates that are not flame retarded to UL 94 V-0 standards, may cause fires if exposed to an internal or external ignition source.  TV sets sold in US and Japanese markets typically meet these standards. A study commissioned by the UK government in 2001 determined the incidence of TV fires in the UK was 280% greater than in the US[4].  They attributed that to the V-0 standard voluntarily applied in the US that was not in Europe at that time. Through CENELEC, the European Union began conforming to a similar standard in mid 2010[2].

[1] UL 94, the Standard for Safety of Flammability of Plastic Materials for Parts in Devices and Appliances testing,
[2] CENELEC Standard EN 60065 Amendment 11 passed for adoption on April 29, 2009
[3] Fire Safety of TV-Sets and PC-Monitors, J. Troizsch, 1988
[4] Causes of fires involving television sets in dwellings, UK Department of Trade and Industry, April 2001

We assess the safety of our products to meet all regulatory requirements in all countries where they are marketed.  These requirements are set by the EPA in the U.S. and by similar regulatory agencies in other countries, including the European Union, Canada, Japan, Korea, China and Australia.  Government regulatory agencies set a margin of safety that provides extra assurance that the exposure level that anyone, including children, might experience will not cause harm.  In many cases, we at Albemarle conduct safety testing that goes well beyond the requirements of any government agencies.

Smoke inhalation is the primary cause of death for victims of indoor fires[1]. Smoke from fires is toxic irrespective of the products burning. Smoke contains a number of substances that are toxic including carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide[2]. Studies indicate the toxicity of smoke in the presence of flame retardants is no more toxic than the smoke produced when flame retardants are absent[3].


[1] Fire Retardance, Smoke Toxiciy and Fire Hazard, M.M. Hirschler, Safety Engineering Laboratories, 1994
[2] Emissions from Fires Consequences for Human Safety and the Environment, P. Blomqvist, Department of Fire Safety Engineering Lund Institute of Technology Lund University, 2005
[3] FIRE GAS TOXICITY AND POLLUTANTS IN FIRES THE ROLE OF FLAME RETARDANTS, J.H. Troitzsch, Fire and Environment Protection Service February 2000

Last Updated: 1/26/2016 5:00:30 PM