Measurement and Prediction of Fire Smoke Toxicity of Materials in Enclosures.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Central Lancashire
Department Name: Sch of Forensic and Investigative Sci

Abstract

Unwanted fires continue to account for a significant loss of life, damage to property, damage to business and damage to the environment. Meanwhile the cost of prevention and protection measures adds a substantial drain to an already struggling economy. The cost of fire is almost 1% of GDP while the cost of fire safety measures for a new building is around 2.5%. The action required to prevent such losses is expensive and may involve inappropriate or unnecessary measures. To address specific threats, such as fires in public buildings, or resulting from terrorism it is essential to improve our understanding of the behaviour of unwanted fires particularly the transition to under-ventilated flaming and the rapid increase in toxicity. Most fire deaths and most fire injuries actually result from inhalation of toxic gases. If reliable means of predicting toxic product yields in real-scale fires were developed, lives could be saved and costs reduced. Combustion toxicity is generally underestimated in small-scale tests, and is highly dependent on fire conditions. The project will quantify combustion toxicity using the unique design of the steady state tube furnace (SSTF) (ISO TS 19700), which allows full-scale fire behaviour, under different fire conditions, to be replicated on a small scale. Crucially, it will also use UCLan's new custom-designed Large Instrumented Fire Enclosure (LIFE) facility based at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service's Training Centre to investigate the relationship between scales as a function of temperature and ventilation condition. This apparatus is based on a half-scale ISO 9705 room with corridor, as a reference scenario for generation of toxic products from fire, in order to validate bench-scale (ISO 19700) data for use in engineering hazard calculations, and provide crucial information on the behaviour of under-ventilated fires. The outcomes of the work have direct relevance to the fire safety engineering community (in order to predict escape times based on fire toxicity and visual obscuration) while understanding the transition to highly toxic, under-ventilated fires will save lives, and reduce costs. It will also provide materials scientists with the tools to optimise products for lower fire toxicity suitable for high risk application such as mass transport or high rise buildings.

Planned Impact

This work will save lives, reduce injuries and save money. It is the final obstacle to the quantification of fire smoke as part of a fire hazard assessment. The immediate beneficiaries will be building specifiers and fire safety engineers, who will be able to base their assessments on a sound scientific footing, and make better judgements on selection of materials, products, and methods of construction. This will have three direct impacts - one on the manufacturing sector to address areas where fire toxicity is critical; another to stimulate regulators to ensure that their test protocols are in accordance with the best available information in high risk applications such as mass transport and defence; and a third to ensure that the fire safety of new, sustainable low energy buildings is not compromised. Materials developers will benefit greatly from being able to identify the components responsible for fire gas toxicity in real-scale fires so they can improve the fire safety of their products. The beneficiaries are represented in many sectors of UK industry. The last 10-20 years have seen a dramatic increase in the amount and variety of plastic and polymer products in homes, offices and public buildings. At the same time the fire hazard has also become an increasingly important issue. Some commercial materials and products such as brominated flame retardants in common use are under scrutiny for risks to the environment and to human health. The establishment of a small-scale apparatus to accurately model burning behaviour in large-scale fires would significantly reduce the need for expensive, large-scale tests, particularly at the materials development stage, and inform the design of a new safer generation materials and products of reduced combustion-toxicity. This work is also aimed at regulators and specifiers to ensure that their test protocols are in accordance with the best available information. The findings from the project will be reported to British Standards and other national standards bodies via the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) committees where it is anticipated that the outcome will form the basis of new standards for validating input of toxicity data for fire hazard assessment. Ultimately, this will provide the basis of a new simplified method for the measurement and prediction of fire smoke toxicity from materials and products. UK's citizens will gain from lives saved, injuries avoided and better, safer design options through the improved understanding of fire hazard, facilitating improvements in fire safety. Most crucially, the results of this project will be able to make a direct contribution to reducing the number of dwelling fire deaths injuries and injuries (87% and 82% respectively of total fire casualties). While politicians and regulators are reluctant to interfere in issues domestic safety, a major outcome of this project will be a web-based tool allowing householders to undertake their own fire risk assessment, based on the actual contents of their homes. While uptake would always be voluntary, undertaking such assessment may lead to lower insurance premises, and a better informed general public, highlighting the awareness of fire hazards in dwellings.
 
Description Smoke toxicity measured in the bench-scale steady state tube furnace apparatus can be correlated to the behaviour of large scale fires such as those responsible for the most of fire deaths in UK. This allows smoke toxicity to be regulated as a fire hazard in the same way that flammability is currently regulated in upholstered foam furniture and construction products.
Exploitation Route The essential understanding and science is already in place so that regulators may use the steady state tube furnace technique in order to limit smoke toxicity of products to reduce the hazard to life from fires.Such regulation would encourage manufacturers to reduce the smoke toxicity of their products.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Education,Electronics,Environment,Healthcare,Government, Democracy and Justice,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport

 
Description This work has demonstrated the validity of replicating the toxicity of large scale fires in the laboratory. Quantifying the fire toxicity of materials and products enables elimination from the most hazardous situations. A very obvious outcome of this work is that PIR (polyisocyanurate) insulation which produces large quantities of hydrogen cyanide when burning, should not have been used on a high occupancy building like the Grenfell Tower. The findings made a significant contribution to the ISO standard ISO/TS 19700 (2016). Results covering studies on insulation materials and upholstery furniture enable leading fire safety engineers, such as Arup, to use such fire toxicity data as input into fire hazard assessment.
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Security and Diplomacy,Transport,Other
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description European Parliament -Fire Fighters and their higher risk occupation
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a guidance/advisory committee
 
Description Judith Hackitt Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Implementation circular/rapid advice/letter to e.g. Ministry of Health
 
Description EU COST Action FLARETEX (COST Action number MP1105)
Amount £454,000 (GBP)
Funding ID MPNS COST Action MP1105 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 05/2012 
End 05/2016
 
Description EU FP7 NMP (NMP.2012.1.3-1) "Development of safer and more Eco-friendly flame Retardant materials based on CNT co-additives for Commodity Applications" (DEROCA)
Amount £3,408,835 (GBP)
Funding ID 308391 
Organisation European Commission 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 12/2012 
End 12/2015
 
Description Setting up a UCLan commercial fire retardancy and fire toxicity facility in China
Amount £325,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Central Lancashire 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2012 
End 01/2015
 
Description Collaboration with Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service 
Organisation Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution An informal secondment of the PDRA with the Fire Investigators in Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service. This was invaluable in enabling the PDRA to better understand the dynamics of fire development.
Collaborator Contribution A work proposal has been submitted that allowed access to derelict buildings owned by Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service for the measurement of fire and toxicant development in full-scale enclosure fires.
Impact Publications: DOI: 10.1111/1556-4029.12268; DOI: 10.1111/1556-4029.12271
Start Year 2012
 
Description Collaboration with University of Edinburgh 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaborating with BRE and University of Edinburgh on the "Real Fires for the Safe Design of Tall Buildings" project (EP/J001937/1), probably the most detailed scientific study on the transition from well-ventilated to under-ventilated flaming. In addition to an array of 400 thermocouples, we are providing the analytical support to quantify the toxic product yields.
Collaborator Contribution University of Edinburgh provided their expertise in Fire Safety Engineering aspects, an access to facilities and data.
Impact N/A
Start Year 2012
 
Description Development of CDT proposal with University of Edinburgh 
Organisation University of Edinburgh
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The success of this project and my growing reputation led to an invitation from University of Edinburgh to contribute fire chemistry and fire toxicity to their EPSRC CDT proposal.
Collaborator Contribution UCLan contributed to the CDT proposal in terms of expertise in fire chemistry and fire toxicity
Impact Unfortunately this proposal was not successful.
Start Year 2013
 
Title Development of equivalence ratio meter 
Description A novel field deployable device for the measurement of equivalence ratio is under final construction. Data and fire effluent analysis has also lead to the development of a numerical procedure that can be used to measure the equivalence ratio of fires using a secondary oxidiser utilising added air. This methodology is based on analysis carried out by Barbrauskas several years ago which utilises pure oxygen. 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact This improved deployable device allow an independent way of quantyfying the fire condition in terms of the equivalence ratio. The new method is not using oxygen, but air where the in-field instrumental setup is much safer. 
 
Title Development of portable fire effluent analysers 
Description A set of four portable analysers have been developed for the simultaneous measurements of CO, CO2, hydrocarbons, oxygen, and hydrogen cyanide and HCl, HBr, NO2, etc.. These incorporate a sophisticated parallel gas pumping system with automated control and measurement of flows. CO, CO2 and hydrocarbons are measured using NDIR, oxygen by electrochemical cell, and HCN by staged gas-absorption (bubblers) and ion chromatography. There have been a number of stages in their development, these include 1. The construction of an original prototype 2. Initial fault-finding with redesign and construction. 3. Characterisation and calibration of mass flow and volume measurements. 4. In-field testing on the fire propagation apparatus (FPA) at University of Edinburgh. 5. In-house testing on the Steady State Tube Furnace and on LIFE apparatus. Theu have been used for several large scale tests, and the data is being written up for publication. 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact Portable analysers can be transported to (and connected up to) existing and opportunistic experimental facilities (small and large scale test methods). 
 
Title The LIFE facility completely rebuilt 
Description 1. The original LIFE construction was built with calcium silicate board. This material proved unable to withstand the temperatures of the sizes of fire necessary to achieve under-ventilation. For this reason the original walls were replaced with fire-grade masonry and the new walls were topped with a steel roof (with insulation). 2. Data suggested that the airflow into the apparatus was being over-measured. Detailed investigation showed that the air movement through the inlet channel did not approximate plug flow. The air inlet channel was redesigned and fitted with new, better performing, instrumentation. The new instrumentation was characterised using a wind tunnel. 3. It proved difficult to achieve under-ventilated combustion in the early version of the apparatus due to extra air reaching the combustion chamber by leaking in through the outlet channel. The outlet channel was reconstructed with a ceramic fibre restriction in order to restrict the counterflow of effluent. 4. It was found that the temperature measurements taken in the enclosure did not describe the combustion conditions adequately. A new thermocouple tree was placed in the interface between the room and corridor. This extra data allows the interface between the upper and lower layers to be understood more definitely. 5. It has been found that the original gas analysers sustain damage when operated under negative pressure. The analysers have been modified to work under positive pressure. 
Type Of Technology New/Improved Technique/Technology 
Year Produced 2012 
Impact The LIFE facility was improved and completely rebuilt which allowed further, more complex, tests to be carried out. 
 
Description An invitation by European Parliament (MEP: Josef Novotny) to present results on cancer and fire fighters. European Union, Brussels 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact At a staggering 60 percent, cancer is the leading cause of death amongst line-of-duty firefighters. Prof Stec has unveiled new findings to the European Parliament which could lead to the recognition of cancer as an occupational health issue for firefighters. Testing and labelling the smoke toxicity of construction products is a first step in having safer, healthier firefighters. Prof Stec has joined MEP Pavel Poc who has been leading the call for legislative change in this area, for a roundtable discussion to debate all the issues and explore solutions. The event took place through the European Parliament's Members Against Cancer (MAC) Group. This event created international network looking at the fire fighters health, as well as discussion on a novel research project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiJirDiFOGY&feature=youtu.be
 
Description An invitation to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology, UK Parliament 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Science and Technology, was organising a discussion meeting on Fire Resistant Materials in the Houses of Parliament and Prof Stec was invited to speak at this event on combustion toxicology. This event provided opportunity to discuss present issues covering fire safety and building regulations. It focused mainly on the regulatory framework that fails to protect fire victims from smoke inhalation, and how this problem may be addressed. Further discussion with politicians and policy makers followed up after the meeting.
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Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description EU COST Scientific Coordinator and leader for WG2: Toxicological and Environmental Aspects 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was selected as Scientific Coordinator for the "Toxicological and Environmental Aspects" workpackage for the EU Flaretex COST project, because of my expertise in fire toxicity, to lead and manage research collaboration in these areas across Europe. My role was to create an international multidisciplinary scientific and technology network on Sustainable Flame Retardancy, developing new innovative flame retardants with low toxicity, environmental impacts, and halogen free.

Through EU Flaretex COST I was able to:
-identify and bring together various research activities, develop collaborations with different academic and industrial sectors as well as different scientific disciplines (such as chemistry, physics, materials science and engineering).
-organise activities to allow the coordination of research on a European level through workshops, seminars, or conferences
- establish a fully functional network where each participant is aware of the activities, expertise and previous experience of other members working in their area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014
 
Description Elevated cancer risk from fire fighters contaminated clothing 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Following publication in Scientific Reports on elevated cancer risk from fire fighters contaminated clothing, various press media has requested for interview or comments. Samples were collected from firefighters' skin and protective equipment at two UK fire stations and examined them for cancerous gases created during a blaze, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Prof Stec have found that the methods used to clean firefighters' protective clothing and equipment were not effectively carried out, meaning the length of time that skin was exposed to fire toxins increased.
This press release triggered responses nationally from Fire Brigade Union, Health and Safety Executive, National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) nationally as well as internationally from many other fire fighter sectors (Belgium, France, Australia, New Zealand, US)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Judith Hackitt Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Intention of this group is to provide recommendations to Judith Hackitt covering building regulations and fire safety, particularly materials, products and system testing aspects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Media interviews related to the Grenfell Tower fire 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Prof Stec have had few media interviews ( Sky News, BBC, Sunday Times etc.) on combustion toxicity as well as on combustible insulation materials
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Member of Institution of Fire Engineers Special Interest Group for Fire- Fighter Safety (FFSSIG) (covering firefighter safety website/database) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This activity provided opportunities for further research, such as looking at better understanding of fire fighters injuries and fatalities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Organising International Conference on Fire Toxicity (together with EU COST MP1105) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Prof Stec co-organised the 1st International Conference on Fire Toxicity (together with EU COST MP1105), providing the only international forum for experts from across the world to highlight research and open discussion on the hazards of fire smoke. This meeting brought together world-leading experts from healthcare, fire science and engineering and regulatory authorities. Topics included lessons learned from major fire disasters, smoke toxicity and the effect of combustion conditions, clinical care of fire smoke injuries, the physiological effects of fire toxicants, and the introduction of new European regulations in fire toxicity (~100 participants). (report can be found here: https://www.uclan.ac.uk/news/assets/Annas_Report_on_Fire_Toxicity_2016.pdf ). This conference provided new research opportunities and collaborations, particularly looking at fire fighters health.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Scientific Committee member of International Conference Modern Trends of Fire Protection in Rolling Stone 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Communication with the scientific community as well as papers presented at the International conferences led to an invitation to the International Scientific Committee of International conference Modern Trends of Fire Protection in Rolling Stone

N/A
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description UK Management Committee Member and UK representative to COST Action MP1105 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I was nominated for UK Management Committee Member and UK representative to COST Action MP1105 (FLARETEX: Sustainable flame retardancy for textiles and related materials based on nanoparticles substituting conventional chemicals) .

Through EU Flaretex Cost I was able to:
-identify and bring together various research activities, develop collaborations with different academic and industrial sectors as well as different scientific disciplines (such as chemistry, physics, materials science and engineering).
-organise activities to allow the coordination of research on a European level through workshops, seminars, or conferences
- establish a fully functional network where each participant is aware of the activities, expertise and previous experience of other members working in their area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014