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FRETWORK has prepared a response for the supply chain of their views on the paper on fire toxicity of UK Furniture. (see FRs IN UK FURNITURE ) STUART has decided that a second article on the paper is needed and this will reflect much more the discussions that have taken place within the Network. Some of our thinking is also shown in the comments.

The paper’s methods are based on applying a massive overkill of ignition insult to a textile covered filling material. The textile was not prepared nor tested for this overkill of ignition source but anyone from our group involved in routine testing would have been able to say the following:


  1. Upgrade the filling to a higher quality (CMHR).
  2. Ensure that the cover is more precisely specified.
  3. Increase the amount of coating.


Then you could well have tested the materials to a crib 5 or even a crib 7 test specification. They know this because it’s what they do. The test results would then have had lots of STF but the extent of ignition and fire development would have been very much more limited – in a way described in the testing specification.

The paper is fundamentally based on a failed testing result. It is based on using a compliant material (perhaps? Did they check?) and then testing it beyond it’s specified performance?

Are they trying to propose that the FFR needs upgrading to use crib 7 for tests?

Of course not, but it makes you wonder.

The same testing professional would also note that the tests are based on an ignition source. It is a stretch of the imagination to say the tests represent a real fire and of course it could not represent a developed fire but only a pre-flashover state.

This leads to another thought.

In this pre-flashover state we know that fires are more or less “dirty” and this toxicity would  significantly reduce in a developed or post-flashover condition. One of our network did ask if they are suggesting that if the ‘cleanness’ of a fire is so critical,  should we inject oxygen to improve this situation?

Of course not, but again it makes you think.

This is describing a  stage in a fire’s growth where survival is NOT normally possible. The UK FFR similarly uses small ignition sources but to identify performance where the production of STF is controlled by ignition resistance.

The main point is that every man-made intervention in a fire acts as towards making the fire more dirty/toxic. Even adding fuel makes it dirtier due to its temporary temperature absorbing effect, only adding oxygen would effectively make it less toxic.

STUART has a strong suspicion that if you threw a fire blanket over one of these tests, whilst it is in progress, the fire blanket would be labelled as toxic.


The Testing Professional would also have noted that the paper recorded no checks on compliance for the materials employed and, more pertinently, did not confirm the performance of the non-compliant materials.

Surely the correct comparison would have involved comparing compliant materials with the ignition sources suggested by the FFR. The larger sources, irrespective of their comparison to a real fire development, would have then found a place ranked against a compliant material with identified risk ignition sources and the effects of the larger ignition sources.

STUART thinks he knows what the results would look like.

There is though, a more serious problem behind the paper’s approach. One of the FRETWORK group did make the point early on in our discussions that “these people do not understand textiles”. STUART has the feeling that there a lot more commentators out there with the same problem. Concerns about STF and Fire Growth Rate (FGR) are not the only issue to be addressed. They all tend to be what STUART calls “Plastics People” and remember, FRETWORK is all about Textiles.

There have been comments based on engineering materials that will reduce FGR and STF in the context of this paper but STUART would like to know what they would do with an upholstery textile that contains up to 7 different fibres (BOTH Natural and Thermoplastic) and may have a PP stuffer included in a jacquard design.

Surely, with all of this in mind, it is not unreasonable to ask just what is this all about?

STUART has included some guidelines for consideration.

  1. The textile outer shell carries the responsibility of the external appearance of the article in very great measure. It will have colour, design, feel, comfort as part of its characteristics. Textiles do this.
  2. Notwithstanding that, it also carries protection, wear, durability and etc., all of which are tested characteristics, as part of its performance. These textiles are pretty remarkable.
  3. If it could be replaced with a sheet of plastic to do all of 1 and 2 it would probably be cheaper and someone would have tried it excepting you also have to persuade the consumer that the final article has the desirability that makes them want to buy – which the textile is also responsible for providing.
  4. Not only that, in this case it may carry a loading of FRs that are quite specific.
  5. If this is a bit difficult to take in then have a look at the FRETWORK Code of Good Practice ( pages and you may learn something.
  6. The UK FFR was based on casualty data that made clear the biggest risk was casual/accidental ignition and by small ignition sources – often typified as “Smokers Materials”. Fire Service advice continues to consider ‘Carelessness’ as a factor in causing incidents.
  7. The effects of such ignition will result in very toxic emissions in a dwelling elsewhere to the seat of the fire. (Why does the paper lump sitting and bed rooms as a single number? – weird)
  8. The main risk with textiles is EASE OF IGNITION. The FFR is designed to give IGNITION RESISTANCE.
  9. The UK FFR is a composite test made on a special rig that contains filling material and a textile outer cover. (The paper’s tests drew on this when they were set up but then started to talk about a real fire scenario – really?).
  10. The UK FFR was developed at a time when there were NO FRs in UK Furniture and the results were quite toxic enough to require the drastic action of introducing a Government Regulation to protect Consumers.


There is an item in the FORUM pages ( that offers guidance on this subject.


The FFR is a risk based approach to dealing with one of the facts of life. We all use to textiles to some degree or other in many parts of our lives and the FFR addresses that fact in the particular instance of foam filled furniture. The combination carries a very high risk that is not at all reduced by the presence of these types of item in most if not all UK households.


The paper can thus be described as having ignored the risk assessment basis for the FFR without actually bringing forward either a basis that it was right and proper to do that or an alternative risk assessment that requires attention. In spite of dismissing the effect of FFR compliance avoiding many fires it asks us to recognise that some greater risk from part developed fires is worthy of consideration.


Choosing to ignore the main risk presented by textiles which is intrinsic to the way they are made is not good science. STUART thinks this is Science, Technology And Understanding put into disarray.


End of rant.

Peter Wragg
Peter Wragg
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