Health Toll From Open Flame and Cigarette-Started Fires on Flame-Retardant Furniture in Massachusetts, 2003–2016

Rodgers, et al (2019). ” Health Toll From Open Flame and Cigarette-Started Fires on Flame-Retardant Furniture in Massachusetts, 2003–2016.” American Journal of Public Health 109(9), 1205-1211. 10.2105/AJPH.2019.305157

Objectives. To evaluate the risk of death and injury in residential fires started on upholstered furniture, with a focus on open flame and cigarette-related heat sources.

Methods. We used civilian death and injury data from 34 081 residential fires in the Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System from 2003 to 2016. We compared outcomes associated with fires that started on upholstered furniture ignited by smoking materials versus open flames.

Results. Although fires starting on upholstered furniture were not common (2.2% of total fires), odds of death and injury were significantly higher in these fires than in fires started on other substrates. Among furniture fires, odds of death were 3 times greater when those fires were ignited by smoking materials than when ignited by open flames (odds ratio = 3.4; 95% confidence interval = 1.3, 10.9).

Conclusions. Furniture fires started by smoking materials were associated with more deaths than were furniture fires started by open flames.

Public Health Implications. Historically, furniture flammability regulations have focused on open flame heat sources, resulting in the addition of toxic flame retardants to furniture. Interventions to reduce deaths should instead focus on smoking materials.

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