FSEU Press Release – European Commission publishes smoke toxicity study report 

Brussels, 26 January 2018: The European Commission published the final report of its study to evaluate the need to regulate on the toxicity of smoke produced by construction products in fires.

Firefighters, researchers and European institutions look for solutions to the growing issue of firefighter’s cancers

Brussels, 28 September 2017: Cancer is the leading cause of line-of-duty deaths amongst firefighters, accounting for approximately 60% of all deaths. MEP Pavel Poc and the European Parliament’s Members Against Cancer (MAC) Group, in association with Fire Safe Europe, held a roundtable to debate the issue of occupational cancer in firefighters and explore solutions.

Firefighters at high risk of getting cancer- Roundtable by the MEPs Against Cancer Group

MEP Pavel Poc (S&D, CZ) and the Members Against Cancer (MAC) Group, in association with Fire Safe Europe, hosted a roundtable on 28 September 2017 to find solutions to occupational cancer in firefighters. This meeting has brought together experts, legislators, firefighters and more to discuss this issue and explore solutions, and was kindly supported by Borealis.

FSEU Q&A on smoke toxicity

What is smoke? Why is it important to talk about it? What influences its production? Our Q&A answers all the questions you (n)ever had on smoke.

Ash Fire backs FSEU’s campaign on fire and smoke hazards

(Published by ASFP) The latest E-Bulletin of the Association for Specialist Fire Protection talks about FSEU’s event on Better Regulation for Fire Safety in buildings!

Stop Fatal Fire Fumes

(Published by IFP Magazine)

Fire safety experts, health specialists and fire fighters called on the European Union to take urgent action on fire smoke toxicity testing.
Fires in European buildings cause over 4000 deaths and 70000 hospitalisations per year, and more than half of those deaths are caused not by the fire directly but by its smoke.
Read the full article on IFP Magazine!

EU has no regulation concerning the protection from toxic smoke

(Published by Alan Eder, Lider)
“A roundtable aiming to raise awareness on the problem of toxic smoke from fires in residential and commercial buildings was held at the European Parliament. In Europe there is no regulation banning the use of building materials that produce toxic fumes when burning, while such legislation in other countries does exist, was said at the round table. As security increase, fewer people are killed in fires by fire, while more die from toxic smoke and protection in this segment has not been regulated as it should be, consider Fire Safe Europe.”

The killing fumes in building fires. Why should smoke toxicity from building materials be tested?

European Parliament, Brussels | 30th June 2015 – Fire safety experts, health specialists and fire fighters gathered at the European Parliament to call on the European Union to take urgent action on fire smoke toxicity testing.
More than half of fire-related casualties are caused by smoke, yet EU regulations overlook smoke toxicity.
The high-level meeting was organised by Fire Safe Europe, the European Fire Fighters Union Alliance and MEPs Pavel Poc and Christel Schaldemose.

PRESS RELEASE: Stop fatal fire fumes

(Published by FSEU)
Brussels, 30 June: Fire safety experts, health specialists and fire fighters today called on the European Union to take urgent action on fire smoke toxicity testing.
Fires in European buildings cause over 4000 deaths and 70000 hospitalisations per year, and more than half of those deaths are caused not by the fire directly but by its smoke.

Toxic smoke turning EU firefighters into cancer sufferers

(Published by Pavel Poc, The Parliament Magazine)
Europe’s insufficient construction regulations and lack of work-related compensation is exposing EU firefighters to the risk of cancer and suffering, warns Pavel Poc.
Fire is both fascinating and dreadful and represents one of the oldest and most menacing threats to our daily life. As such, fire safety is an appealing subject. Nonetheless, not many people know that most casualties in a fire are caused not by the flames directly, but rather by smoke.

Smoke toxicity matters

Did you know that smoke is the biggest killer in a fire? According to the fire statistics for Great Britain 2011-2012: being overcome by gas, smoke or toxic fumes was partly or wholly the cause of death in over half (53%) of all fire fatalities.

Inhalation of smoke is the leading cause of fire fatalities, but also a major contributor to fire related injuries. Yet fire smoke toxicity is not considered in the European regulatory framework for buildings.

However, methods exist to measure the toxicity of smoke from burning construction materials, and an EU testing and classification system for smoke toxicity of construction products could be easily included in the Construction Products Regulation (CPR), which so far only addresses smoke opacity.

But isn’t all smoke toxic?

Yes! But whether it will be a hazard depends on how much of it is in the air that you breathe. Every combustion reaction produces smoke that is toxic and in sufficiently high concentrations may present hazardous conditions to exposed humans. Short-term hazards are impaired vision due to smoke obscuration and eye irritation, irritation of the upper and/or lower respiratory tracts and narcosis due to the inhalation of asphyxiant gases. These effects, often occurring simultaneously in a fire, contribute to loss of mental acuity and motor coordination, disorientation, panic and eventually physical incapacity.

Also, not all smoke is the same. Although all organic materials will produce smoke when they burn, the quantity and composition of smoke is dependent on material including additive type as well as ventilation conditions.

The type of material including additives used in the product needs to be considered, but in addition and more importantly design and end use application cannot be ignored. When it comes to fire safety, proper risk assessment must be undertaken on the final end use application in order to ensure people safety and minimise the risk of fire hazard.

In order to fill the gap between performance and safety, regulations, standards and/or guidelines need to also address properly smoke toxicity. It should also mean that smoke hazard would be part of the building classification.

What influences smoke production?

The amount of smoke produced in a fire depends on the materials burning, the temperature and most important the ventilation conditions (= the amount of oxygen available for the combustion process). It also is determined by design and end use application.

Timeline and FSEU’s actions

FSEU’s work on Smoke Toxicity

Fire Safe Europe (FSEU) co-hosted three roundtables in the European Parliament together with MEP Pavel Poc, MEP Christel Schaldemose and the MEPs Against Cancer (MAC) Intergroup in the European parliament. These roundtables invited firefighters and researchers to discuss the topic of smoke toxicity in depth, especially in relation to the impact on firefighters.

The first two Roundtable, held in 2015, led the European Commission to launch a study to assess the need to regulate on smoke toxicity.

The second Roundtable, organised in 2017, presented three significant studies on the impact of smoke toxicity on firefighters, and two firefighters explained how their work and health was impacted.

The European Commission Study

The European Commission DG GROWTH launched in 2017 the “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” aimed at assessing whether there is a need to regulate on smoke toxicity from burning construction products.

Sadly, the final report of the study concluded that “clear definition of terminology is lacking” and “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.”

Whilst the issue of the lack of comparable data and common terminologies across the EU is a crucial issue, which is now being addressed by the European Commission via the Fire Information Exchange Platform (FIEP), FSEU believes that we must have a European system for testing and classifying of the toxicity of smoke from construction products in order to improve people’s fire safety in buildings. The biggest killer has to be addressed.

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