NIST Time|NIST Home|About NIST|Contact NIST

HomeAll Years:AuthorKeywordTitle2005-2010:AuthorKeywordTitle

Flame Retardants.

pdf icon Flame Retardants. (353 K)
Gann, R. G.

Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology. 4th Edition. Volume 10, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., NY, 930-936 pp, 1994.


flame retardants; combustion toxicity; fire research


Each year, Americans report over three million fires leading to 29,000 injuries and 4,500 deaths. The direct property losses exceed $8 billion and the total annual cost to our society has been estimated at over $100 billion. Personal losses occur mostly in residences where furniture, wall coverings, and clothes are frequently the fuel. Large financial losses occur in commercial structures such as office buildings and warehouses. Fires also occur in airplanes, buses, and trains. Fires occur when an ignition source, a match, cigarette, or stove burner, meets a flammable product such as a chair, wall, or scattered papers. The heat from the source breaks down polymer strands in the material, creating (generally endothermically) chemical fragments that vaporize. At a sufficiently high temperature, these fragments react with the oxygen in the air to release more heat. Some of this heat radiates or convects back to the product, breaking down more polymeric strands, yielding more gas-phase fuel, etc. Life- and property-threatening fires result when the rate of heat feedback to the product exceeds the sum of the heat dispersed from the combustion environments and the marginal enthalpy required to produce a steady stream of vapor-phase pyrolyzate. Understanding of fires dates to the nineteenth century. The advent of modern fire fighting techniques and equipment has meant less destruction of cities or whole buildings. Additionally, fire-resistant building design usually contains fires to parts of structures. However, a high fuel load in either a residence or a commercial building can overwhelm even the best of building construction.