Flame Retardants: Why Are They So Important?

Fire fighter clothes

(DGIwire) – Flame retardants (FRs) are a key component in reducing the devastating impact of fires on people, property and the environment. A variety of different chemicals, with different properties and structures, act as FRs and are often combined for effectiveness. But what exactly do FRs do that makes them so important?

According to the American Chemistry Council (ACC), experts recognize the use of FRs as essential to stopping or slowing the spread of a fire. They are used to prevent ignition by increasing the threshold required to start a fire; reduce the spread of fire; and delay flashover, the “fireball” that can quickly occur when the combined heat and the release of flammable gases cause automatic combustion. Delaying flashover, the ACC reports, reduces the rate and intensity of burning and increases the amount of time people have to escape.

The use of FRs is especially important today, the ACC also notes, because modern homes—especially with the increase of electronic products—present a greater risk of fire dangers. In addition, FR use is a component in protecting the public. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2015, a total of 1,345,500 fires were reported in the U.S., causing 3,280 civilian deaths, 15,700 civilian injuries and $14.3 billion in fire damage.

“FRs are the hidden protection against the potentially devastating impact of fire in so many products that we often take for granted,” says Nick Clark, CEO of Alexium International, a specialty chemicals manufacturer. “Today, a host of technological advances are ensuring that the FRs available to manufacturers are not only effective but also ecologically sensitive.”

Alexium specializes in evaluating and developing unique, environmentally friendly flame retardant chemistries for products in a variety of industries as well as for military applications. The company current sells various types of chemistries that can be customized including Alexiflam-NF™ for cotton-rich and wool-rich blends, and Alexicool, a cost-effective chemical finish for fabrics that provides a cool-to-the-touch feel to fabrics that absorb heat.

Unlike many existing flame retardant treatments, Alexium has “next-generation” formulations that employ molecules that have shown to pose minimal risk to the body or to the environment. Some of these formulations have been specifically designed to avoid the hazards associated with halogenated or brominated compounds. Finally, Alexium’s formulations may offer a performance advantage since they may preserve the original characteristics of the product being treated—and it can be laundered as many as 50 to 100 times without losing its flame retardant protection.

“The ability to incorporate ecofriendly FRs into a vast range of products has evolved alongside the growing recognition of their importance and potential,” Clark adds.

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