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Ignition Sources

 

How we see the challenge.

We call them ignition sources. You call them cigarettes, matches, lighters, candles, space heaters, the gas flame on your stovetop and anything having to do with electricity. Used as intended, no problem. But, tens of thousands of times each year, misuse or malfunction causes big problems. Ignition sources differ in the amount of energy they generate and the ways in which that energy becomes fuel. For example, a lit cigarette transfers high levels of heat very slowly to the fabric on a couch. Some fabrics won't ignite from the cigarette, while others do so fairly easily. A paper match held to the same couch will not generate as much heat but acts more rapidly. Again, some fabrics will ignite, others may resist ignition.

What is the National Association of State Fire Marshals doing about ignition sources? We rely on two strategies.

The first is a matter of public education, for example: Reminding parents to keep matches, lighters and other potentially hot things away from their children. Teaching kids to stay away from hot things, or how to use those hot things safely. Teaching older adults not to wear loose nightwear while cooking to avoid ignition of clothing by burners. Teaching people not to leave burning candles unattended or within reach of children or pets. Advising consumers to unplug their toasters, coffee makers and other appliances when not in use.

Our second strategy deals with making products safer. For example:

  • Cigarette fire safety: At a cost of just pennies, adjustments in cigarette design can be made that will prevent the loss of an estimated 800 lives annually. Currently, all of Canada and an increasing number of U.S. states have enacted laws requiring all cigarettes sold to meet flammability standards. NASFM has always supported the concept of a cigarette that is less likely to ignite upholstered furniture and mattresses. NASFM recognizes that nothing that burns is completely "fire safe," and adults who choose to smoke need to exercise fire safe behavior with tobacco products, as well as with matches and lighters. Tobacco products should be kept out of the reach of children at all times. NASFM does not endorse the purchase or use of any tobacco product.

    For the latest list of states that have passed laws or are considering regulation on cigarette fire safety, as well as other information for advocates and the media, please consult the website of the Coalition for Fire Safe Cigarettes™, www.firesafecigarettes.org.

  • Lighter safety: The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requires all cigarette and multi-purpose lighters to be child-resistant, which has helped reduce deaths dramatically from fires involving lighters. But more can be done.

    NASFM has joined in a petition to the CPSC by the Lighter Association to make mandatory the voluntary ASTM F-400 safety standard that would require all lighters sold in and imported for sale into the U.S. to comply with basic safety designs to reduce the incidence of mechanical malfunction. Because the standard is only "voluntary" in the U.S., NASFM is concerned that lighters not in compliance with ASTM F-400 are being diverted into the U.S. from Canada and Mexico, which require F-400 as mandatory.

    NASFM supports the efforts of states to pass laws banning the sale of toylike or novelty lighters because of their appeal to children. The European Union has already banned the sale of novelty lighters. States in the U.S. are beginning to realize that many fires can be prevented, and many lives saved, if these products go away.

  • Candle safety: NASFM supports the work of the ASTM's Candle Fire Safety Task Group in developing voluntary standards to ensure that a candles, candle holders and other products used with candles are safer - that is, less likely to tip over, flare up or otherwise increase the risk of unwanted fire. NASFM has petitioned the CPSC to make the ASTM voluntary standards into mandatory standards in the U.S.

  • Electrical safety: Thousands of products rely on electricity to work. When electric switches and connections malfunction, or wires wear out or are compromised, electricity can ignite fires. NASFM is involved in efforts to make electrical products safer from fire, as well as in promoting technology to prevent electrical fires.

Cigarettes | Candles | Electrical Fires | Toylike/Novelty Lighters

 

Cigarettes

National Association of State Fire Marshals Policy Regarding Flammability Standards for Cigarettes

The National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) supports the establishment of state-level flammability standards for cigarettes. At a cost of just pennies, adjustments in the cigarette design can be made that will prevent the loss of an estimated 800 lives annually. Currently, all of Canada and an increasing number of U.S. states have enacted laws requiring all cigarettes sold to meet flammability standards.

As the organization whose members comprise the senior fire official in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, NASFM has always supported the concept of a "lower-ignition strength" cigarette, or more accurately, a cigarette that is less likely to ignite upholstered furniture and mattresses. NASFM recognizes that nothing that burns is completely "fire safe," and adults who choose to smoke need to exercise fire safe behavior with tobacco products, as well as with matches and lighters. Tobacco products, matches, lighters, and candles should be kept out of the reach of children at all times.

NASFM does not endorse the purchase or use of any tobacco product.

For the latest list of states that have passed laws or are considering regulation on cigarette fire safety, as well as other resources for advocates and the media, please consult the website of the Coalition for Fire Safe Cigarettes™, www.firesafecigarettes.org.

Additional Resources:

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Candles

According to industry sources, about 200 American companies - and countless small craft producers - manufacture candles. Their collective consumer retail sales currently exceed $2.3 billion annually, with annual growth rates now well above 15%. Candles are used in more than 70 percent of all US households. More than 96% of all candles sold in the US are bought by women. Candles are featured in catalogs and advertisements, often to depict other products in positive settings. The "1997 Residential Fire Loss Estimates" recently released by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that civilian deaths due to ignition by a candle numbered 220 in 1997 - an 83% increase over 1996, when civilian deaths attributed to candle ignition were reported at 120 by the CPSC. In a report released October 28, 1999, the National Fire Protection Association noted that fire deaths and injuries were at an 18-year peak in 1997 - the most recent year of data available at the time. Property damage as a direct result of candle fires reached $170 million.

Some experts believe that candle safety will improve if wicks do not extend the full length of a candle - with perhaps a 1/4 inch margin of wax left at a candle's bottom. Such candles would self-extinguish, thereby helping to address the fairly common problem caused by consumer carelessness. Health and environmental experts also have raised concerns about candles. The Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 284 No. 2, July 12, 2000) published a letter from Public Citizen's Health Research Group expressing concerns about air emissions from the lead used to stiffen some candlewicks. The letter noted that in spite of a voluntary commitment by candle manufacturers not to use lead in wicks, independent testing revealed that the practice has continued. The Environmental Illness Society of Canada has issued a similar warning related not only to lead emissions but also to some 19 other toxic emissions from burning candles. Technology appears to exist to lessen emissions. Such companies as the CW Group, located in Oakland, CA, offer "soot-free" Clean Wax.TM

Members of the National Candle Association are addressing some of these concerns through the ASTM F15.45 Candle Products Subcommittee.

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Electrical Fires


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Toylike / Novelty Lighters


The National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) supports banning the sale of novelty/toylike lighters. Here are resources to help NASFM members and others to address this problem. Check back for new information!

Educational Information

Laws in the States:

The US Fire Administration website maintains an updated status of state legislation to ban or limit the sale of toylike/novelty lighters, along with links to the text of bills and laws, at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/about/position_statements/novelty_lighters_position.shtm.

Activity in the 111th US Congress:

The "Protect Children from Dangers Lighters Act of 2009" has been introduced as S. 723 in the Senate and HR 2050 in the House of Representatives. Both bills would declare novelty lighters a banned hazardous substance under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, which is administered by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Links to Other Information on Toylike/Novelty Lighters:

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