By David Reed, UT EditorBrussels-Pefrc, the phosphate ester flame retardant consortium, has launched a new version of its website at: www.pefrcnet.org. Pefrc is based in Washington DC and has a European office in Brussels. Membership is open to any company directly engaged in the manufacture of phosphate ester flame retardants as well as non-manufacturers involved in the sale or use of the materials.Pefrc says it hopes the website will provide clear and succinct explanations on how flame retardants work in our society and how they can save and protect lives on a daily basis. The site notes, for example, that over 9000 people die every year in North America and Europe as a result of fire, with many more deaths in the other parts of the world, while thousands suffer injury and loss as a result of fires.Phosphate esters are produced by reacting phosphorus oxychloride, a chemical derived from white phosphorus, with an alcohol, the Pefrc website explains, adding that the flame retardants can be divided into four separate product groups:• Aryl;• Bisphosphate;• Alkyl; and• Chlorinated.Each of these groups is represented by a number of products which offer different levels of compatibility with the end use application and provide different levels of flame retardancy. Certain products, such as the alkyl range, are used for their main benefit, as a viscosity modifier, and offer flame retardancy as an additional benefit, the Pefrc website explains.The choice of flame retardant used depends on the application, the material to be flame retarded, and the fire safety standard to be met, as well as commercial considerations such as production requirements and cost, Pefrc adds.The site also explains that phosphorus-based flame retardants function by forming a protective (char) layer which resists high temperatures and protects the underlying product from attack by oxygen and radiant heat. As a result, they restrict the development of the fire which increases escape time for any occupants of buildings where the fire is located.The risk of fire in everyday life is influenced by the fact that we are increasingly using products based on organic materials such as oil, the website continues. As a result many of the items which form the basis of our modern life - such as televisions, furniture, and personal computers - will, if exposed to a substantial heat source such as an open flame, provide the fuel source for a fire and catch fire.Flame retardants help break this link, Pefrc suggests, citing one recent example as the Toronto air crash in August 2005. The plane involved had previously been subject to new regulations requiring fire-retardant treatment of seats, carpet and other materials, the website points out, implying that this prevented a more catastrophic fire.Further details are available at www.pefrc.org"