Conference Report: Flame Retardants 2008 in London

The Flame Retardants Conference FR 2008 took place in London, UK, on 12th and 13th February 2008. It addressed new developments in the fields fire regulations and tests, innovations in flame retardants (FRs), and started with the main environmental topic for all chemicals: REACh. The opening paper on FRs and REACh explained the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation of Chemicals, its timeline, the involvement of flame retardants in this new regulation, the experience from the past (risk assessments), and how the FR producers are preparing for this regulation. In this context, another paper specifically dealt with antimony trioxide.

Regulatory developments regarding fire safety and testing were the next topic. In the USA, strict requirements for the flammability of mattresses have been issued, whereas for upholstered furniture there is a trend to only demand resistance to a glowing cigarette. Further papers dealt with developments in European textile regulations and standards, European reaction to fire standards for construction products and related opportunities for material suppliers, and last not least the new European classification and fire testing systems for cables and their impact on the use of cables in building.

The next section focused on fires and fire statistics with papers on city fires in Japan, a study on high risk items in private home fires (mattresses, furniture, TV sets), the new fire safety requirements for TV sets against external ignition sources like candles, and a study showing the high fire risk of household appliances not sufficiently protected against these external ignition sources.

New flame retardant systems and their use in polymers were the next topic, which started with additive and reactive phosphorus flame retardants in epoxy resins for printing wiring board applications, followed by papers on the flame retardancy mechanisms of metal phosphinates in glass-fibre reinforced polyesters, on new applications of these phosphinates in engineering plastics for electronics, on intumescent systems based on ammonium polyphosphate, and on other inorganic phosphorus compounds both for use in polypropylene. An interesting paper explained the anti-drip mechanism of specific PTFEs as melt modifiers in thermoplastics. Some more academic papers described FTIR investigations of nanocomposites in polyamides, the effect of carbon nanofiber network on the flammability of flexible polyurethane foam, and more reality oriented, the rather poor role of nanocomposites in PVC cables.

The conference gave an excellent depiction of the status and developments of fire safety regulations, testing, and the use of flame retardants and plastics.