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There is a lot of misunderstanding when one talks about flame retardants in plastic textiles like the ones Belton Industries produces from polypropylene and polyethylene.

What Are Flame Retardants?

Simply said, flame retardants (FR) are compounds, when added to plastics, textiles, and coatings that inhibit, suppress, or delay the production of flames and reduce the flame spread of the material. The primary goal of a flame retardant is to delay the ignition and burning of a flame and the secondary goal is to reduce or limit the amount of damage. Flame retardants do not prevent charring or melting, nor are FR’s effective when a full fire is engaged.

How Do Flame Retardants Work?

To understand how flame retardants work, you must first understand how materials burn. When we see the flame of burning material, what we are actually seeing is the combustion of flammable gases given off during thermal decomposition (pyrolysis). The way flame retardants interfere with the pyrolysis of a plastic depends on the FR being used and the plastic being burned.

Flame retardant compounds typically work in one of three ways:

  1. First, endothermic flame retardants, which are primarily mineral compounds, break down endothermically at high heats. At a specific temperature, the compounds basically fall apart, thereby absorbing heat and releasing water vapor.
  2. A second and prevalent type is a gas phase radical quenching flame retardant, which is usually a brominated FR. Brominated or halogenated flame retardants which retard the oxidation reaction of the flame are widely used and relatively inexpensive. However, because this type of FR is considered toxic to humans and animals, it is being banned in certain areas.
  3. A third type is a thermal quenching flame retardant, which is non-halogenated and uses charring to prohibit pyrolysis and thereby limits fuel for the fire. Many times, different types of flame retardant compounds are combined, creating synergists which improve the overall efficacy.

FR Fabric Solutions for Your Specific Application

Belton Industries manufactures several flame retardant yarns and fabrics to meet the requirements of our customer’s end-use application. Please contact us today, and we’ll be happy to learn more about your FR performance requirements and work with you on a flame retardant fabric solution for your specific application.