Flame retardants can slow or extinguish the spread of fire before it does significant damage. They come in many forms - liquid coatings, soaking sprays, paint additives etc., and can be used in almost any industry. If you're in the market for a flame retardant coating or additive for your product, here are the three most important questions to ask flame retardant manufacturers.
Flame Retardants Regulations In The UK
There is no single coating method or flame-retardant treatment, so manufacturers have many choices. What's important, though, is that not all chemicals can be used on certain substances. For example, you can use a soaking spray for a muslin backdrop but it won't do anything to stop the fire on a synthetic poly backdrop. In this case, a synthetic fibre spray is a better option.
Some treatments are also not suitable for use in contact with food, drink or cosmetic products. For this reason, there are several regulations and laws in the UK that restrict the use of certain chemicals as flame retardants and regulate fire safety:
- REACH addresses the production and use of chemical substances and their impact on the environment and human health. It applies to all chemicals produced or imported to the EU (including the UK). The European Chemicals Agency takes care of all aspects of REACH.
- RoHS restricts the use of certain chemicals in electrical and electronic equipment. There is a defined limit for every substance that can be defined as homogeneous.
- Eco-label assesses the quality and appropriate use of chemical products.
Is It Flame Resistant Or Flame Retardant?
The huge difference between these two lies in how each compound is made and what they do. Flame retardant products are chemically treated to be self-extinguishing when exposed to a naked flame. Anything can be flame retardant when treated with special chemicals, including classically flammable items such as clothes, upholstery, food packaging, wooden furniture etc. Flame resistant, on the other hand, means that something is non-flammable - the material's chemical structure is resistant to catching fire in the first place. It means that when a fire occurs nearby, the material won't drip or melt.
Therefore, without a special chemical treatment, a product can't be flame retardant. At the same time, without having a special chemical structure, it can't be fire resistant. When you're searching for fire-safety products, more often than not you will find flame retardant materials. They are easier to produce and almost anything can be flame retardant.
In summary, flame retardant properties can be imparted to an item through a coating after manufacture, whereas to make an item flame resistant you need to formulate a particular chemical structure into the item at the manufacturing stage.
What Chemicals Do You Use?
A fire retardant is a title given to different chemicals that slow the burn rate of materials. Some chemicals, such as Polychlorinated biphenyls, were the first flame retardants and they are banned in the UK & EU for health and safety reasons. Brominated flame retardants are popular in some parts of the world but are banned here as well. Thus, it's vital that a manufacturer uses safe chemicals appropriate to the market the goods are being sold in. If you sell to multiple markets, you have to cater for the market with the strictest regulatory standards. Often, but not always, FDA (US) regulations are less stringent than those of the EU, Australia and Japan, with Chinese regulations being looser still. Always check with a professional chemical engineering company, such as ourselves, before you bring a new compound to market.
Keeping Up To Date
It's important to know that just like other chemicals, flame retardants are subject to review by different regulatory bodies for safety. The regulatory status of different compounds can change over time in different jurisdictions, with some requiring special accreditations. Flame-retardants help to save lives and many are proven to stop or slow down the spread of fire. Just make sure a manufacturer has the expertise and appropriate certificates to develop and apply flame-retardants.
To discuss your requirements with one of our team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch by calling 01706 828208.