Flame retardants in upholstered furniture and other household items to stop the spread of flames also increase emissions of two poisonous gases. Hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide are odorless, colorless chemicals, making them silent killers.
Carbon monoxide is an important toxicant in fire effluents. However, we have seen that it is less important than hydrogen chloride from burning PVC, or hydrogen cyanide from burning nitrogen-containing polymers such as nylon, polyurethane or acrylic, in developed fires.
Hydrogen cyanide – so lethal it was used in the Nazi gas chambers – is a bigger cause of fire deaths than previously thought.
“If there is a fire, it doesn’t matter how big or how small, you have the possibility for those gases.”