What is flame retardancy, and why is it important in bedding?
In both residential and commercial environments, a fire in a bedroom or sleeping quarters is obviously a major risk to those asleep when they are not conscious and therefore able to act to either fight a fire or escape. Bedroom fires have numerous causes such as electrical faults, smoking, electric bar heaters etc and are often fatal due to primary or secondary ignition or smoke from burning bedroom materials. Some blankets made with mod-acrylic fibres which are very popular for young children are deadly because of the toxic gases that are given off when they are burnt. Studies show that the mortality rate is 100%
Whether it be a residential or commercial situations, ideally the bedding materials should be flame/fire retardant.
There are a number of natural and synthetic textile materials that are available which can be used in filled bedding products which can dramatically reduce the risk of harm in a fire.
So, if its a good idea to have flame retardant bedding why is it not available? Simple, its a question of price!
In regards synthetic fibres the most common doona,quilt or pillow filling material is polyester which can actually be a fire risk. Several types of polyester fibres designed for bedding are coated with a silicon finish on the fibre which improves the fibres softness and processing. Siliconized polyesters are actually flammable and in some countries they are banned in bedding products eg The UK. In Australia they are not only allowed but very common.
Polyester can however be manufactured to be flame retardant by applying a fire retardant finish on the which give is an improved fire retardancy but it can be washed of after repeated machine washing. Another solution is to add a flame retardant material into the polyester polymer, before it is spun into a fibre, which creates an inherently flame retardant fibre. This process is permanent and cannot be washed or worn off. This is the optimal solution for polyester bedding products,however the technology is quite expensive and in the absence of any meaningful standards in Australia it is not used in residential bedding.
Kelly & Windsor uses FR polyester fibres in some specialized bedding products where there is a high fire risk such as in the navy and merchant ships. Under the IMO, the International Maritime convention, all passenger ships with sleeping facilities are required to comply with flame retardant standard on bedding and other textile furnishings eg blinds, drapes
In regards to natural fibres, some are flammable such as cotton while most animal fibres are naturally flame retardant such as alpaca and wool fibres. Bedding products that are filled with wool or alpaca fleece do not put out fires but they do not support combustion and are therefore correctly regarded as being flame retardant.
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