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Material

Fire retardant

production

production

What is a “Fire-LCA” and why?

The objective of the “Fire-LCA” is to estimate and compare the full range of environmental impacts of alternative society choices concerning fire protection of consumer goods. Scenarios in which chemicals are incorporated into upholstered furniture to improve its fire safety (flame retardants) are compared to those where such products are not used. The environmental impact assessment takes into account the manufacture, use and end-of-life of the furniture, with or without flame retardants, and also the environmental impacts of the increased number of and different nature of fires which can be expected. This is based on assessments of statistical trends concerning real fires and on measurements of emissions of different pollutants from burning furniture (with and without flame retardants) and from full-scale room fire tests.

This approach differs significantly from traditional LCA’s where accidental emissions, and in particular emissions of pollutants resulting from accidental fires, are ignored (see figure 1).

Crude material preparation

  • 0

    or X % FR in material

B%

Fire of primary products

Fire of secondary products

Ash

Fire of secondary products

Fire of primary products

Recycling processes

Fire extinguishing

Replacement of primary products

Production of primary product

Landfill Fire

Decontamination processes

Replacement of primary products

Replacement of secondary products

A%

Use of primary product

D%

Landfill

C%

Incineration

Ash

A+B+C+D=100 %

Figure 1: Schematic representation of the Fire-LCA model.

The work reported here, however, demonstrates that the pollutant emissions from accidental house fires related to upholstered furniture (in which furniture is the first item to burn) are a very significant source of several toxic pollutants. This, of course, takes into account the pollutants emitted by the burning furniture itself in case of fire, but also those resulting from the burning of other items in the room or whole building. The number of such fires of different scale is estimated using real fire statistics.

The Fire-LCA model thus needs a complex and wide range of different input data:

  • energy consumption and pollution emissions in the manufacture of the sofa model considered

  • these factors specifically for the production of the flame retardant chemicals

  • energy recovery and pollutant emissions related to the end-of-life disposal of the sofa. This is affected by the scenarios considered: landfill, incineration without flue treatment or with flue treatment and with or without energy recovery

  • the estimated life time of the sofa, which affects how all the above are taken into account

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