Publications : 2015

Mackay CE, Vivanco SN, Reinhardt TE, McClure S, Vercellone J. 2015. Real-time monitoring and assessment of thermal and toxicological risk associated with fire retardant textiles in a full-size simulation of an engulfment flash fire. Fire Technol 51(5):1167–1193.


A comparative risk assessment was performed on nine commercial flameretardant materials in garments intended for general occupational use. The assessment evaluated the relative hazards associated with combustion gases during a full engulfment flash fire in accordance with ASTM F1930 and ISO 13506. The materials in the form of whole body coveralls were subjected to propane-fired flash conditions of 84 kW/m2 for a duration of 3 or 4 s. Combustion gas composition and concentrations were measured in the breathing zone of the test manikin in real time by Fourier transform infrared spectrophotometry as was the gas temperature. Results were used to parameterize thermokinetic and toxicokinetic models used to predict both injury and gas exposure. The results indicated that an individual maintaining regular ventilation would receive third degree burns to the upper airway at both durations. In the case of the 4 s burn, third degree injury would reach the larynx, resulting in involuntary apnea, in about 12 s post-ignition. Combustion gas production was high, but of very short duration meaning that exposure was limited by the receptor’s ventilation cycle. Hazards to parties giving aid were limited by rapid declines in combustion gas production and temperature that returned to background concentrations within about 60 s post-ignition. Comparisons made between materials indicated the marked presence of hydrogen chloride, cyanide, and nitrogen dioxide production for the fire retardant (FR) modacrylic blends; cyanide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide for FR cotton; and sulfur dioxide for the FR rayon blends. None of the gas exposures were found to represent a significant risk to health or impedance to survival or escape to the individual wearing the garment, or other persons that may come to their assistance. Particulate antimony was detected in the technologies that use it as a fire retardant, but at concentrations well below anything that could be considered hazardous.