Combustion toxicity amendment takes effect in December

Combustion toxicity amendment takes effect in December

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This December will mark the beginning of mandatory toxicity testing of building products in New York, the first state in the nation to adopt such requirements. Secretary of State Gail S. Shaffer formally approved a combustion toxicity amendment to the state’s Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code late last year.

No regulatory action is inherent in this amendment, which requires product testing using a bioassay method developed at the University of Pittsburgh, explained William F. Brown of the New York State Department. It’s strictly a question of making the toxicity testing results public to architects, builders, and consumers so they can make informed decisions as to the type of building materials to choose. “Equally important will be our ability to keep firefighters informed of the potential dangers they face every day,” Shaffer was quoted as saying in a State Department news release.

The amendment requires manufacturers to provide information on the percent of halogens, flame spread, and critical radiant flux. To ensure that the data is kept in perspective, the amendment also states that the results of the toxicity test, if used in an assessment of fire hazard, should be considered in conjunction with all other factors pertinent to an evaluation of fire hazard.

The test results will be filed with the secretary of state, and the Office of Fire Prevention and Control was assigned to administer a data bank.

These testing requirements will be phased in over a three-year period, beginning with electrical conduits and wire insulation, moving on to plumbing and mechanical systems, and concluding with interior finishes, such as paneling, carpeting, and possibly certain types and thicknesses of paints, said Brown.

At press time, California and Iowa had started the legislative process to institute similar toxicity requirements, noted Brown, while other states are watching New York closely before pursuing this.

New York State’s Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code was developed as a result of the December 1980 Stouffer’s Inn fire in Harrison, NY, where 26 people died. The incident was a case of major corporations choosing to build in areas where code regulations are the most lax. The Uniform Code calls for all publicly or privately owned places of assembly over two stories to be properly sprinklered and equipped with smoke detectors, to be inspected once a year by a municipal building inspector, and to have fire exits and fire alerting/alarm systems properly maintained and operational.

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