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Flame retardants in textiles

Disclaimer: This document provides guidance and is not a legally binding interpretation and shall therefore not be relied upon as legal advice.

Flame retardants

Flame retardants are typically added to consumer products to meet flammability standards for furniture, textiles, electronics, and building products like insulation.
Fire resistant fabrics could be of two types: natural flame resistant fibers or treated with a flame resistant chemical. Most fabrics are highly flammable and present a fire hazard unless they are treated with flame retardants.

Flame retardants are a diverse group of chemicals that are added mainly to textile products to prevent or delay the spread of fire. The main families of flame retardants which are commonly being used in the textile industry are:

  • Halogens (Bromine and Chlorine)
  • Phosphorus
  • Nitrogen

Brominated flame retardants (BFR)

BFRs are used to prevent fires in electronics and electrical equipment. For example in the enclosures of TV sets and computer monitors, printed circuit boards, electrical cables and insulation foams.
In the textile industry BFRs are used in fabric back-coatings for curtains, seating and upholstered furniture. Examples are Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) and Polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs).
BFR's are persistence in the environment and there are concerns about the risks these chemicals pose to public health.

Chlorinated flame retardants (CFR)

Chlorinated flame retardants are used in plastics, textiles and electrical equipment.
Examples of restricted CFRs are Short-Chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCP) and Dechlorane Plus®.
CFR's are persistence in the environment and there are concerns about the risks these chemicals pose to public health.

Flame Retardants based on phosphorus (PFR)

This category is widely used both in polymers and textile cellulose fibres. Of the halogen-free organophosphorus flame retardants in particular, triaryl phosphates (with three benzene rings attached to a phosphorus-containing group) are used as alternatives to brominated flame retardants. Organophosphorus flame retardants may in some cases also contain bromine or chlorine.
Toy safety standard EN 71-9 forbids two specific phosphate flame retardants in accessible textile materials used in toys intended for children under 3 years of age. These two flame retardants are more likely to be found in textile materials that are back-coated with plastics such as PVC than with the textile fabric itself.. Tri-o-cresyl phosphate, the most toxic tricresyl phosphate, is far less likely to have been used than tris(2-chloroethyl) phosphate.

Nitrogen-containing Flame Retardants

Nitrogen-containing flame retardants are based on pure melamine or its derivatives, i.e. salts with organic or inorganic acids. Pure melamine as flame retardant is mainly used for flame retarding polyurethane flexible foams for upholstered furniture in homes, car/automotive seats and baby seats.Melamine derivatives as FRs are used in construction and in electric and electronic equipment.
Flame retardants are added on purpose to improve the safety of textiles. Make sure that to avoid any restricted or banned flame retardants.

For the chemical risk assessment of materials this is essential information from your supply chain.

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