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Fire Precautions (Plastics)

Volume 893: debated on Thursday 12 June 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment which research establishments are responsible for investigations into the fire behaviour of plastics in furniture.

Within the Department of the Environment this work is handled entirely by the Fire Research Station, which places some contracts for specific aspects of the work with a number of external research agencies.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what investigatory work is being carried out by research establishments into fire hazard of plastics in furniture and fittings; and whether he is satisfied that this is being given sufficiently high priority in the interests of fire provision and public safety.

The Fire Research Station is engaged on a continuous programme of studies into the behaviour in fire of plastics in furniture and fittings. This work includes examination in the laboratory of the heating and burning of specific plastics such as flexible and rigid polyurethanes and polyvinylchlorides and phenol formaldehyde. The burning properties of these are compared with those of traditional materials such as wood or foam rubber. Full-scale fire tests under conditions reproducing those of a burning room are carried out on polyurethane cushions, mattresses and made-up beds; on decorative pvc wall linings and papers; and on decorative phenol formaldehyde laminates. The Fire Research Station is also currently managing external research contracts on smoke production from selected polymers, and its toxic effects, on chemical products from the thermal decomposition of polyurethanes, and on the final combustion of products from polyurethanes. Certain work on the topics to which the station itself devotes attention is also conducted externally.The above work, which is given the high priority necessary in the interests of fire protection and public safety, is soon to be extended to cover other commonly used plastics. The need for additional research within this field is under review in the Department.