FIE's research into problems encountered in Ireland and the equipment available for control and clean up of dioxins
Friends of the Irish Environment

TO: T. Gleeson Chief Fire Officer

Waterford County Borough Council

16 May 1998

Dear Sir;

Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) are writing to all County and Urban Council Fire Officers questioning the fire aspects of the prevailing design and content of PVC windows in public buildings in emergency situations.

We are asking for details of any experiences relating either to the design of these windows in fire situations or the toxic fire hazard they represent. This request for information is being made under the newly implemented Statutory Instrument 125 of 1998 extending the regulations relating to Freedom of Access to Information on the Environment.

PVC as a fire hazard through toxic fumes

FIE is concerned with the increasing amount of PVC in modern buildings. These range from windows and doors to soffits fascias skirting boards pipework and internal cabling and ducting. In particular we are concerned that toxic fumes can be created before flames have appeared.

At the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in the United States 161 people died from inhaling PVC fumes from decomposing wiring before flames became visible. In the 1996 Dusseldorf Airport fire PVC cables were ignited by a welder's torch leading to the death of 16 people.

Do you have any experience of situations in which PVC materials have been responsible for toxic fumes posing a danger in themselves?
What equipment do you have to deal with the hydrogen chloride and related toxic fumes emitted from a typical fire in a building with a significant number of PVC components and what protocols are in place for their use?
Do you know of or have access to any fire toxicity tests on PVC materials?
Do you have any procedures in place to deal with the ash created by the combustion of PVC materials which contains carcinogenic dioxins which are in themselves toxic?

PVC Window Design

As to the prevalent push out design of modern PVC windows FIE notes with some concern that the revised Building Regulations with their Technical Guidance Documents which will come into force on July 1 1998 apply only to PVC windows on the first floor of new buildings.

We question the omission from these Guidance Documents the use of PVC replacement windows particularly in hotels and places where the public congregates as well as in modern bungalows. Unlike traditional sash windows the design of these windows do not permit easy escape. where other methods of exit are impeded.

5) Do you have any experience of the design of these windows creating safety hazards?

We would be most grateful for any information you could provide.

Yours etc.

Peter Sweetman

(For Friends of the Irish Environment

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