Textiles and Fire
Textiles can play a significant part in the spread of a fire, which can be particularly dangerous in public buildings occupied by large groups of people.
Federal and regional by-laws relating to the construction and retail sectors as well as locations for public gatherings regulate which fixed building materials must feature which flame retardant properties. This includes textiles such as permanent stretch ceiling systems or awnings.
An architect or fire engineer devises a fire protection concept for interior decorations in shops or exhibition halls that are not fixed. In addition to flame retardancy of materials this will also include escape routes and sprinkler systems. It follows that all fire protection measures – including textiles – are highly interdependent.
An advertising professional can therefore not freely choose any given textile to, for example, cover the scaffolding of a building; the material must be highly flame retardant and B1-certified in accordance with DIN 4102-1.
Junkers & Müllers from Mönchengladbach in Germany for instance manufacture technical textiles that satisfy the requirements of this standard and are tested accordingly. The base material of the B1-certified textiles manufactured by the company is soaked with fireproofing agents and afterwards receive a treble coating on one side that also contains this agent.
Fire certification can be a fine line
According to Junkers & Müllers’ Business Development Manager Jörg Hippel, there are numerous mistakes that an advertising professional can make in the selection of textiles: e.g. many fabrics that may have been tested for the B1 standard as a raw material lose their certification once printed on; the fireproofing agent is not sufficient to ensure flame retardancy for the inks added during the printing process.
Junkers & Müllers therefore offer fabrics that are coated in larger quantities of fireproofing agents so that the ink layer is also protected. The company is planning to have its Mediatex products Arttex, Troja, Bermuda and Presto certified in accordance with the B1 standard using inks from a variety of manufacturers. It has already had four fabrics tested using Mimaki inks with two of them also tested using Roland inks. Only an official certification authority can award such DIN 4102-1 certification.
Professionals introducing textiles to a building can only be certain of their legal status if the fabrics possess such certification wherever the B1 standard is required for their particular end-use. However, as it is not always possible to ascertain whether a textile that is to be installed in or on a building will require DIN 4102-1 certification, it is imperative that the necessary information is obtained from the operator of the building. “A mechanical engineering expo might have entirely different fire retardancy requirements for any textile banners installed than a textile expo where everything could go up in flames at much greater speeds,” explains test engineer Manfred Sailer.
According to Jörg Hippel, a further problem is so-called statements on fire behaviour that on first impression might look like a fire-standard certificate. Often named something like “Statement of Test Results from Fire Reaction Tests in accordance with DIN 4102-1”, they are by no means sufficient to offer legal assurance of flame retardancy of the textile.
These tests only cover part of the tests required for B1 and do not legally substitute the B1 certificate. This might be noted in small print somewhere on the statement but can be misleadingly taken by the textile print company to be an official document that certifies a textile as flame retardant. One should always request a copy of the B1 certificate from the supplier and study this carefully to ensure that only textiles that are truly certified are being purchased. Jörg Hippel adds: “If in doubt, you can also simply call the relevant certification authority as it is listed on each certificate.“ However, in the event of damage or loss, it is important that a sample of any materials used is retained showing production number, batch number, delivery date and all other relevant information, so that the end-consumer can proof what materials were used. If necessary, further detailed tests must then be carried out by the supplier.
Beware of dangerous chemicals!
Jörg Hippel highlights a third problem, namely textiles that were manufactured outside of the European Union and which may contain fireproofing agents as well as other finishes that may have been derived from chemicals graded as dangerous by German standards.
Fireproofing agents generally contain chemicals that can be of risk to human and environmental health. Germany and the European Union have therefore implemented regulations that clearly govern which chemicals may be used for this purpose. The Mediatex range of products by Junkers & Müllers also carries the additional certificate “Confidence in Textiles – textiles tested for harmful substance in accordance with the Oeko-Tex Standard 100”. This standard ensures that in addition to legally prohibited substances, those substances that are regulated as well as those of concern to health but not yet legally regulated will not be used in the manufacture of a textile material. According to Jörg Hippel the problem does not stem from manufacturers in the EU but rather from those in the Far East. There, fireproofing agents can be used that are forbidden in these parts. But once applied to a fabric, he adds, they can be further processed here in Germany, creating health risks for workers. He therefore recommends that printing services providers purchase textiles only from manufacturers in the EU.
To be on the safe side, put everything into the use of flame-retardant and environmentally safe textiles. That way, you won’t get burnt!
JM Technical Textiles