Furniture on cruise ships all have something in common: cushioning is made out of Polyurethane Foam which must satisfy the criteria to ignitability of upholstered furniture according to IMO Res. A.652(16).
Clearly, polyurethane is hardly an ideal material for furniture as it requires the addition of styrene-acrylonitrile (SAN) copolymer polyols to increase its load bearing properties—a practice that also increase the material’s flammability. Manufacturers have tried several ways of making polyurethane safer. One is to cover it with a flame-retardant material; the other is to modify the foam so that it burns less quickly.
After surveying thousands of furniture pieces on different commercial vessels, we (Xaler Systems LLC) have noticed the preference of cruise ship furniture manufacturers is to use polyurethane foam covered with a flame-retardant material, as it meets the IMO Res. A652(16) and is relatively inexpensive. To use these materials and still meet the IMO fire safety regulations, high levels of halogenated flame retardants are needed to prevent ignition and to delay the rate of combustion. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, there is a growing body of evidence that these flame retardants are associated with adverse health effects in animals and humans, including endocrine and thyroid disruption, impacts to the immune system, reproductive toxicity, cancer, and adverse effects on fetal and child development. In addition to its environmental safety hazards, there are many regulatory requirements worldwide limiting the use of halogenated flame retardants and, many such as TCPP, contain organo-tin catalysts, which are restricted or under increasing scrutiny from eco-labels.
In response, many manufacturers have shifted to a polyurethane foam manufacturing that does not require flame retardants. These foams are known as Combustion Modified High Resilience Foams (CMHR Foams), which incorporate a melamine resin. This behaves as a flame retardant, protecting the melted polyols from catching fire by forming a hard coating on their surface. Other CMHR Foams rely on a kind of expandable graphite in the form of small platelets. When heated, the graphite expands 100-200 times to form a charred layer. This prevents oxygen reaching the interior of the foam, thus retarding both the ignition and the burning process.
CMHR Foams were designed to meet the most severe, high-ignition source flammability tests—such as BS 5852, Crib 5 in the United Kingdom, Boston Fire Department Seating Test, F.A.A. Seat Cushion Requirements Sec. 25.853 (a) part I appendix F, California TB133 and IMO Res. A.652(16). Many tests have shown CMHR Foams took about six times as long as ordinary foam to burn, giving people more time to escape during a fire hazard situation.
The benefits of CMHR Foams over the ordinary fire retardant foams are evident and outweigh the price difference between them. Xaler Systems LLC recommends Cruise lines and cruise operators to specify the CMHR Foams for all upholstered furniture and mattresses on new builds and also in refurbishing projects where foams need to be replaced, because it has improved fire prevention properties and no health or environmental hazards as the ordinary foams with halogenated flame retardants, guaranteeing the safety and well being of their guests and crew at all times.
Xaler Systems LLC is an expert at assessing the needs of your seating application and matching it with the perfect foam. We pride ourselves on creating superior products — inside and out. Please check out our website at: www.xalersystems.com