It is my pleasure to introduce this brochure to you. Let me begin by sharing some thoughts based on my personal experience. Prior to entering the world of flame retardants, I worked at a petrochemical plant heading up the Environmental, Health and Safety department. Here we had to manage a whole spectrum of what were termed “major accident hazards” – explosives, corrosives, toxics and ecotoxics, exothermic substances and last but not the least, flammables. Which brings me to the topic of fire. Can fire be “managed” ? Well yes it can – up to a certain point. It is at the early or incipient stages, before a fire gets totally out of control, where the risk is best managed. And this early stage control is the domain of flame retardants. They perform their magic at the molecular level, either to prevent ignition altogether or to retard the developing fire.
Now a brief history – the use of flame retardants can be traced back to the ancient Romans and Greeks, but it was not until the advent of plastics and synthetic textiles in the ‘50s and ‘60s that the industry really took off. More and more flammable materials and ignition sources entered our living spaces and our transportation systems; it was soon realised that fire safety standards were essential to reduce their risk. Such standards were developed for electrical and electronic appliances, furniture, thermal insulation and many other products, providing the life blood for the growth of the FR industry. And these standards in turn led to rapid advances in flame retardant and polymer chemistry, a trend that continues to the present day, giving rise to flame retardant industry, which is valued at an estimated $7 bn globally.
A final thought to conclude : in the specialty chemicals arena, there are very few substances that can lay claim to such a societal benefit as life safety. We in BSEF can therefore take pride in our industry’s contributions in this field.