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Toxic time bomb

Not all the victims of the Grenfell disaster died as a result of the fire itself. Reported cases of cyanide poisoning have appeared in the media, raising new concerns, highlighted in a recent article by Terry Edge which appeared in Fire magazine. http://wakeupuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/2017-08-Fire-magazine-Terry-Edge.pdf
“Two of the biggest sources of hydrogen cyanide,” he writes, “are from burning sofas and mattresses containing flame retardants (FRs), that comply with the UK’s Furniture and Furnishings (Fire) (Safety) Regulations 1988 (FFRs). For at least three years, however, it has been known that in practice most sofas are ignitable.”
So while we assume these regulations must save lives, in practice the ‘match test’ fails four out of five times. “Huge amounts of FRs (around one to three kg per sofa) used to meet the laboratory test requirements are also largely ineffective at preventing fires, yet their dust gets into our bloodstreams anyway. And the toxic fumes they produce from burning products seriously damage the health of firefighters too, with US evidence showing alarmingly high rates of cancer in Fire Service personnel.”
While UK fire statistics show that deaths, injuries and house fires have decreased since the late 1980s, this is mostly due to the big increase in smoke alarms and a decline in home smoking.
It’s estimated that less than one life per year is saved by the ‘match test’. “On that basis, millions of UK sofa fabrics are being treated with brominated FRs which start wearing off immediately we sit down. One of these, DecaBDE, is banned in the USA but still exists in millions of UK sofas.”
A 2014 proposal reckoned there could be savings of up to £50m per year for manufacturers through reduced FR use. But this would mean similar losses to the chemical industry. Vested interests cranked into action in October 2014, when Stephen McPartland MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Furniture Industry Group, threatened the BIS Minister, Jo Swinson, with a judicial review if she implemented a new ‘match test’. Two months later, he was given a place on the board of Furniture Village and £43,000 a year. Meanwhile the old, largely ineffective ‘match test’, with its toxic consequences remains in force.

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