Study shows stricter regulations on furniture fire safety affect escape on fire scenarios

20 April 2020

shutterstock_1409311022Modern upholstered furniture represents a significant fuel load in homes and apartments across Europe.  In Europe, upholstered furniture fire safety standards are nationally defined and lead to very different safety levels between countries.

Flame retardants are used in foams and fabrics to meet the most robust upholstered furniture fire safety standards.  Flame retardants stop fires from starting when these products are exposed to common ignition threats. No Ignition – No Fire.   Misinformation about flame retardants and their benefits has generated new debates around the need for sound fire safety standards.  Some argue that reducing or eliminating these requirements should be done to avoid flame retardant technologies.

The study entitled “An overview and experimental analysis of furniture fire safety regulations in Europe”[1] analyses the fire performance of upholstered furniture across countries e and demonstrates wide differences in performances.  Released in March 2020 and conducted by Eric Guillaume, Rene de Feijter, Laurens van Gelderen from the fire research laboratory Efectis in France and the Netherlands, the study tested real sofas purchased around Europe and tested them individually.

The study concluded furniture fires are significant events and safety regulations should be robust for public protection.  The data showed British standard BS5852 designed products, that use flame retardants, significantly outperformed products from other countries in both ignition resistance and time to peak heat release. Without ignition, there is no fire but when there is a fire longer times to peak heat release importantly correlate with greater escape times for occupants.

The conclusions of this study align with recent work by the South West Research Institute[2].  This work focused on fire performance comparisons of upholstered furniture from France, United States, and United Kingdom.  The South West Research Institute also showed that products designed to the UK standard by using flame retardants provided significantly better performance with respect to ignition resistance and time to peak heat release rate (HRR).


About BSEF

BSEF – the International Bromine Council, is the global representative body for bromine producers and producers of bromine technologies. Originally founded in 1997, BSEF works to foster knowledge on the societal benefits of bromine and its applications. The members of BSEF are Albemarle Corporation, ICL Industrial Products, Lanxess and Tosoh.


[1] An overview and experimental analysis of furniture fire safety regulations in Europe by Eric Guillaume (Efectis France, Espace Technologique, Saint- Aubin Cedex, France) ; Rene de Feijter ; Laurens van Gelderen (Efectis Nederland, Bleiswijk, The Netherlands, 3 March 2020

[2] Carpenter K, Fernandez K. Comparative room burn study of furnished rooms from the United Kingdom, France and United States.

s Fire Technology. 2019;56:489-514. s10694-019-00888-8.