Fire Safety of Mattresses
Many of the materials and foams which are used for mattress fillings are highly flammable. Statistics have clearly shown that that the most lethal domestic fires are often caused by burning cigarettes, lit candles or children playing with matches and setting fire to beds and sofas.
The dangerous combination of air and fuel, contained within the foams used in mattrasses, is particularly conducive to the spread of fire. Therefore the fire resistance of fillings and textiles for bedding is absolutely essential.
As with many types of fillings and foam combinations, actual fire behaviours of a bed in a room will depend on:
-the nature and proximity of possible flammable materials nearby, the size and ventilation of the room and the size of the bed generating the heat.
-the potential for the burning bed alone including the bedclothes to cause ‘flashover’ (which is the point where heat given off by fire in a room, is sufficient to cause many other flammable articles to catch fire.)
-the potential to cause ignition of other materials near or on the bed leading to flashover
-life threatening release of gases and heat from the burning bed into the surrounding room/s
all are proven reasons why the addition of flame retardants, whenever highly flammable materials such as foams are used, drastically improve the safety of mattresses.
Fire Safety of Furniture and Textiles
Upholstered furniture is known to be an aggravating factor during household fires, especially when they are involved early during the fire event.
If not adequately treated, many of the materials used in furniture, both modern foams but also traditional cushion fillings, can catch fire very easily, burn vigorously and ease the flame spread, posing a significant threat to lives.
In countries with low flammability standards, such as continental Europe, upholstered furniture is generally thought to be involved in about 30% of lethal domestic fires. (reference: Kobes, Groenwegen, Winkelhorst, Fatale woningbranden 2008. NIFV, Arnhem, The Netherlands)
The photographs below indicate how rapidly a fire can develop from upholstered furniture, which is not resistant to ignition.
Moulded foams in furniture, both latex and synthetic polyurethane and soft filling materials will burn violently, unless specifically fire safety treated, resulting in a temperature of 2.000°C within minutes for a sofa in a domestic room, releasing 2 - 3.000 kW of heat. Fire safety treatment of covering fabrics can both prevent a fire starting from a small flame or other heat source, or if a fire does start in other items in the room, can reduce the speed of burning, giving time for occupants to escape.
Textile fire resistance is central to furniture fire safety. Depending on its fire resistance, the protection afforded by the fabric covering will determine if and when the flammable filling of upholstered furniture, cushions or comforters will catch fire. The textile, if fire resistant, can both prevent a flame contacting the filling foams and materials, and limit oxygen feeding the fire if they do start to burn.
Fire safety is important for textiles particularly those where they are covering other flammable materials, in particular foams in furniture, transport seating, mattresses, bedding and so on. Most textiles burn easily if they are not fire safety treated.
Natural fibres, such as cotton and linen, are amongst the most dangerous textiles in case of fire, and burn vigorously if not fire safety treated. They can also continue to smoulder (afterglow), causing fires to restart or propagate.
Synthetic fibres may catch light less easily if they melt away from a heat source. However, this means that they provide no fire protection for enclosed materials, such as foams in furniture, so that a small flame can easily develop into a tragic house fire. Synthetic textiles will burn fiercely if they cannot melt away from the flame and the molten fibres can cause severe burns.
Fire safety treatment of textiles used in drapes, curtains and blinds is also important for home and office fire safety. Untreated textiles in such applications can catch fire easily and burn rapidly. The vertical hanging facilitates flame spread and air contact to feed the fire. Curtains moving with wind can readily catch fire from candles or other sources, and can be a key factor in spreading a small fire source into a major room fire.