The EPDA insists that the industry is committing considerable resources into developing materials that reduce the flammability risk of plastic products even further to help save lives and protect property.
As plastics increasingly replace other materials in many building and construction projects, European suppliers are striving to make their products as fire-resistant as possible, primarily in applications where flame spread needs to be limited, such as ventilation ducts and wall claddings on escape routes within public buildings.
Flame retardant plastics have also been developed to meet the demands of sectors such as transportation (e.g. locomotive cabs, carriages, trams, metro systems and shipping) and semi-conductor, which needs hard-to-ignite materials that produce very little smoke.
Low flammability sheets, rods, pipes and fittings in a variety of PVC, Polyolefin, Polycarbonate and PMMA are being rolled out that are suitable for across-the-board applications where burning behaviour can make the difference in surviving a fire.
Plastic is also playing a part in equipment for fighting fires. EPDA member Germany-based SIMONA (www.simona.de/en), a manufacturer of thermoplastic products with production facilities round the globe, is the first plastics manufacturer in the world to make FM Approved Polyolefin pipes and fittings in sizes of up to 630mm in diameter for underground water piping systems designed for firefighting in buildings.
FM Approval is one of the many demanding regulations that plastics claiming low flammability must pass – other yardsticks include DIN 4102, DIN EN 13501-1, UL94, NFP 92-501 and BS 476. Conforming to these standards is backed up by rigorous testing at independent institutions, which is then subject to constant third-party inspections and retesting as defined in fire standards.
EPDA President Lari Hahtonen says the ongoing development of flame retardant plastics and additives that can prevent fires from starting and inhibit or delay fire spread, is making the material more attractive for use in environments requiring high levels of fire performance.
He added: “In contrast to flammable materials like wood, for example, flame retardant plastics are harder to ignite and self-extinguishing, therefore reduce flame spread. However, the industry is not complacent and will keep on doing research into fire resistant materials and additives that will help improve safety standards.”
Fire-resistant plastic sheets, rods, tubing and films are all on the market, while fire-safe polymers that are resistant to degradation at high temperatures are being developed to help protect items such as pipes, window frames and fittings.
The EPDA was formed in 1973 and is the voice of the European plastics distribution industry, representing companies in more than 20 countries involved in a cross section of distribution and manufacturing activities encompassing plastic sheet, blocks, rods, profiles, tubes, pipe, valves, fittings and numerous related activities.