(melamine) flame retardant combination, typical of foams generally used in such furniture in the UK. One of the sofas used a phosphorus-based flame retardant treated cotton covering fabric, and the other a brominated flame retardant formulation back coating to the cotton covering fabric. For both of the two UK-sofas, their coverings met requirements of BS 5852 part1:1979 and their foam met requirements of the UK 1988 specifications (could not be ignited using a Crib 5 burner).
The non-FR sofa was typical of models sold in mainland Europe, that is, the cotton covering was resistant to ignition by a cigarette, but could be ignited by a match.
Furniture life scenarios
The LCA calculations are directly affected by the duration of useful life which furniture is expected to have. This study therefore considered two different scenarios, taking average expected life cycles of sofas of 10 and 15 years. The choice of scenario proved not to significantly affect the comparison between flame retarded and non-flame retarded sofas.
End-of-life (disposal) scenarios
The study assumed that 30% of furniture will be incinerated at the end of its useful life, with the remainder going to landfill, considered as representative of the current situation in Europe. Emissions from incineration were estimated based on incinerators that conform to EU legislation (“Incineration of waste” Directive 2000/76). Emissions of halogen related chemicals (HCl, HBr, dioxins/furans) from incineration were assumed to be proportional to the input of chlorine and bromine (in furniture) to the incinerator, as explained in more detail in the Fire-LCA TV Case Study report. In reality, dioxin and furan emissions may be unaffected by increased chlorine/bromine loads, being already limited by combustion conditions and flue cleaning (given the concentrations of these elements present in typical municipal waste). The chlorine levels in municipal waste incinerators are sufficiently high to generate maximum levels of TCDD, so that additional chlorine will not generally lead to increases in dioxin and furan emissions. Experimental trials have indeed shown that flame retardants in wastes do not result in increased incinerator
d i o x i n / f u r a n e m i s s i o n l e v e l s 4 . N o n e t h e l e s s , e m i s s i o n s w e r e e s t i m a t e d a s b e i n g p r o p o r t i o n a l t o furniture halogen content (0.10 ng TCDD equiv./g Cl input, and the same for Br) as this provides the best conservative estimate available. Energy recovery from incineration was included in all cases.
The estimation of the number and nature of accidental home fires related to non-FR and FR furniture was based on the relatively complete statistics available from the UK, which enable trends to be identified since the introduction of the 1988 Furniture Fire Safety Regulations. At the time, furniture caused 7.5% of all domestic fires, but resulted in 35% of deaths, with both numbers rising.
The 1988 regulations required all new furniture sold in the UK from 1988 onwards (covering fabric and cushioning foams) to be resistant to an open flame, which is achieved for foams, cotton and artificial fabrics by the use of flame retardants.
With the benefit of almost 10 years of fire statistics since the introduction of these Regulations it is possible to draw some conclusions concerning the effect of a high level of fire safety on the frequency and size of fires involving upholstered furniture. The UK statistics were analysed in detail by the University of Surrey in the 2000 report published by the UK Government Department
o f T r a d e a n d I n d u s t r y 5 . T h i s r e p o r t c o n c l u d e d t h a t t h e s e R e g u l a t i o n s w e r e s a v i n g 3 6 2 l i v e s a n d 3 315 injuries per year in the UK by 1997 (intermediate figures as some pre-Regulation furniture was still in use). The analysis of statistics used to estimate the environmental implications of furniture fires distinguishes between:
4 Tamara pilot, Karlsruhe, Germany “Recycling of bromine from plastics containing brominated flame retardants in state of the art combustion facilities”, Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe, APME report nr 8040, 2002: http://www.cefic- efra.com/pdf/TEC Report 8040 GB.pdf 5 Effectiveness of the Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988, Government Consumer Safety Research, Dept. of Trade and Industry (DTI), June 2000 http://www.dti.gov.uk/homesafetynetwork/bs_rfffr.htm