Couch Fires

Upholstered furniture is notoriously flammable. In minutes, a dropped match, or cigarette can ignite a couch which almost immediately bursts in to a roaring fire that quickly engulfs the entire room, killing anyone in it.

"Polyurethane foam, which is used in most furniture, is extremely flammable. It is a petroleum-based product that has the burning characteristics of gas and kerosene.

Although foam manufacturers give explicit warnings to furniture makers, these warnings are often not made clear to the consumer.

An average-sized sofa that starts burning, will reach flashover in as little as 4 mintues, and create heat and smoke that is lethal.

Textiles such as wool, leather, modacrylics and PVC vinyl are much slower to burn. Fire barrier materials have also been designed to inhibit ignition, and fire retardants have also long been available.

Yet fire resistant standards for furniture makers remain lax, even though the problem could be addressed for a modest increase in cost.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported in 2001 that upholstered furniture is linked to more residential fire deaths than any other consumer product.

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