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The toxicity of smoke produced by construction products in fires

DG Grow Study to evaluate the need to regulate within the Framework of Regulation (EU) 305/2011 on the toxicity of smoke produced by construction products in fires

EuroFSA welcomes the publication of this report that considered the need to create EU regulation on the toxicity of smoke produced from fires in construction products. We note that the report reflects the views presented by EuroFSA regarding risk from fire in the community. In particular that the greatest risk is in the home and is from the contents of buildings not from the construction products in building. We also note and support the concern over the lack of reliable fire statistics across the EU. This is not a new concern and EuroFSA has offered to share its ongoing initiative on gathering fire data involving active participation from a number of EU countries.

We reproduce the Executive Summary from the report below so readers can get a sense of the report and recommend the report is read in full by following this link – https://ec.europa.eu/commission/commissioners/2014-2019/bienkowska/announcements/fire-safety-buildings_en

The conclusions from the study were:

  1. The interviews have shown a clear definition of terminology is lacking e.g fire safety engineering, injury and death. This would be needed for any future European initiative to collect data and produce coherent fire statistics at EU level.
  2. Fire regulations: Member States recognise that all smoke is toxic and have a raft of regulations for the protection of occupants. Seven Member States referenced regulations on the toxicity of smoke from construction products; five of these have been notified to the EC as regulations. These regulations are from Belgium, France, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden. In each case their application is defined and limited in scope.
  3. Fire statistics: The type and format of data collected varies across Member States, and, at present, statistics on smoke toxicity are not collected and therefore the effectiveness of potential measures cannot be assessed. Data shows the number of deaths per million people reducing over the last 30 years without regulations specific to smoke toxicity. The rate of reduction varies between Member States. There is general agreement that if statistics are required then collecting them at a European level in a coordinated and harmonised system based on standardised terms and definitions would be critical.
  4. Although there is a lack of agreement as to what constitutes fire engineering and also that there isn’t sufficient data for a fuller implementation fire engineering is seen as already delivering benefits when used as a tool for demonstrating compliance with national requirements.
  5. Legislation: The responses received do not agree that regulation of toxicity of smoke from construction products is required. However, if the case for regulation were proven, then an agreed European system for testing and classification, with regulations and requirements at national level is favoured.
  6. The responses to the questionnaire showed that legislation at EU level was seen as having a more positive impact than the other two options. However, greater use of existing legislation and alternative safety approaches were also seen as important in the potential impact of any additional legislation. If legislation were considered appropriate then detailed cost – benefit and impact analyses would be required and the costs and benefits of existing regulations and alternative active and passive methods, would need to be considered and would need to address the issues associated with the toxicity of smoke produced by building contents.
  7. There were many comments questioning the usefulness of singling out construction products and emphasising that if legislation related to the toxicity of smoke from construction products were considered appropriate that it would need to be part of an holistic approach to fire and effectiveness of measures.
  8. Legal basis: The responses indicate that interviewees believe there would be limited benefits from regulating specifically for the toxicity of smoke from construction products. Some interviewees believed that there could be greater benefits if the flammability (and hence smoke toxicity) of furnishings and fittings was addressed across all Member States.
  9. The potential dangers of smoke in general, including toxic smoke, leaking into or being generated in areas that are considered to be safe zones and / or escape routes need to be considered in new or amended existing regulations.
  10. Effect on the marketing of construction products: There is general agreement that regulation of toxicity of smoke of construction products could increase product costs, and potentially remove some products from the market. Additionally, it was agreed a regulation would be expected to impact products by driving improvement and developments of new products.
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