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Chapter 2Combustion Products and Their Effects on Life Safety



Richard G. Gann, Nelson P. Bryner


All combustibles produce heat and smoke that, in sufficiently high concentration, may be hazardous to life safety. Incapacitation can result from exposure to the asphyxiant gases, irritant gases, and heat. Irritant gases and visible smoke can reduce a person's ability to find and negotiate escape routes efficiently. Survivors of the acute effects of exposure during a fire may also experience serious postexposure health effects. Responses of people to the effects of exposure to the combustion products of fire vary considerably. This is due both to the degree of physical activity during exposure and to the vulnerability of certain subpopulations. Techniques are available for estimating the fire environments that can led to incapacitation of building occupants. The understanding for estimating other sublethal effects and postexposure harm is not yet developed. The testing of materials and products in the laboratory does not, in itself, address their toxic hazards produced in fires. Numerous other factors, including their heat release/mass burning rates, contribution of other combustibles present, size and configuration of the enclosure, ventilation, smoke transport, the nature of the occupants, and occupant movement also affect toxic fire hazard. These factors must all be considered in concert.
NFPA Journal


Gann, R. and Bryner, N. (2008), Chapter 2Combustion Products and Their Effects on Life Safety, NFPA Journal (Accessed May 22, 2024)


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Created June 30, 2008, Updated February 19, 2017