/ Home & Energy

Take fire-risk appliances off the shelves immediately

We want people to be better protected from flammable plastic-backed fridge-freezers. Do you back our call for retailers to take fire-risk appliances off the shelves?

Update 11/07/2019

We’re celebrating a big win for our End Dangerous Products campaign.

Today, a new fridge freezer safety standard enters into force effectively banning the manufacture of flammable plastic-backed models.

We’ve been campaigning for the introduction of a new standard since 2017, along with groups including London Fire Brigade and Electrical Safety First, and our 115,000 campaign supporters.

The standard sees the introduction of new tests that require cold appliance backing material to withstand a naked flame for 30 seconds, and demonstrate that it can sufficiently prevent flames reaching the flammable insulation as a result.

Although fires due to refrigeration faults are rare, under the old standard, some appliances were made with a flammable plastic backing that can accelerate the spread of flames in the event of a fire.

While the new standard effectively bans manufacturers from making flammable plastic-backed models, retailers are expected to be allowed to continue selling their old stock so we’ll be calling for them to remove any remaining flammable plastic-backed fridge freezers from sale immediately.

If you’re thinking of buying a new fridge, freezer or fridge-freezer, remember to check before you buy to make sure you’re not getting a model with flammable plastic backing.

You can use our free tool to check the backing material of hundreds of the most popular fridges, freezers and fridge freezers currently on the market and reviewed by Which?.

The London Fire Brigade Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Charlie Pugsley, told us:

We have long been warning about the stark dangers of plastic backed fridges and freezers as part of our Total Recalls campaign and we support Which? in raising concerns about this issue and producing the online checking tool.

The new standard sends a clear message that these flammable backed fridges and freezers are a risk and is a big step in the right direction, but it’s really important that this isn’t the end of it and that more work is done to make white goods safer.

We’d also like to see recall notices better publicised and greater regulation of second-hand appliances”

Update 18/03/2019

We’ve repeatedly asked manufacturers and retailers to stop making plastic-backed fridge-freezers that can accelerate fires and put people’s lives at risk.

A new safety standard will be coming into force this July, requiring all manufacturers to stop making these potentially unsafe refrigeration models.

Retailers must now put the safety of their customers first. Hundreds of these potentially unsafe fridge-freezers continue to be sold across the UK. They must be removed from shelves immediately, so that people are not left at risk for years to come.

People must have confidence that the appliances they buy are safe. Until then, anyone planning on buying a fridge-freezer should still check they are not unwittingly purchasing an unsafe model.

Original convo 11/02/2019

First of all, it’s important to say that the sale of flammable plastic-backed models that pass the current safety standard is legal and that the backing itself is not the cause of fire.

However, our call comes in response to a growing body of evidence, including from the London Fire Brigade, Electrical Safety First and our own testing indicating that plastic-backing can rapidly accelerate the spread of flames in the event of a fire in your home.

Check your appliance with our tool

It is worth stressing that if you already own a flammable plastic-backed model, the risk of fridge-freezer fires is extremely low.

However, if you’re thinking of buying a new appliance, we’d urge you to make sure you’re getting a metal-backed (or other flame retardant) model. If you’re unsure about how to check, the free-to-use Which? fridge-freezer checker tool can help.

In September 2017, we urged manufacturers to stop using flammable plastic-backing in their fridge-freezers, while in April of last year, we took the unprecedented step of making 250 fridge-freezers Don’t Buys.

In response to this, a number of brands committed to stopping the production of these appliances by January 2019.

Last month, when we followed up with manufacturers, we were encouraged to find that almost all have now stopped producing flammable plastic-backed models while most confirmed to us that they no longer distribute these appliances to retailers either, marking a win for our campaign.

Your turn, retailers

Off the back of this, we looked into whether the UK’s four biggest fridge-freezer retailers (AO.com, John Lewis & Partners, Argos and Currys PC World) are still selling plastic-backed models.

Of the four, only John Lewis told us that they do not currently sell any plastic-backed models, and haven’t done so since April 2018. We’re now calling on AO.com, Argos and Currys to follow suit and remove all flammable plastic-backed models from sale immediately.

A fridge-freezer lottery

When carrying out our research, we found there was huge confusion about whether models were metal or plastic-backed, with a significant proportion mislabelled, making it difficult for people to have confidence they are not purchasing a fire-risk fridge-freezer.

I’d be interested to know if you’ve found similar when buying a new appliance?

That’s why we’re also calling on manufacturers and retailers to provide people with greater clarity by clearly listing model backing type so customers know what they’re buying.

This uncertainty demonstrates the need for reform of the standards system – people should be able to expect more transparency and consistency across the industry.

If you’ve recently bought, or are thinking of buying, a new fridge-freezer, I’d be really keen to hear about your experience. Were you able to find out the backing type of your model? Did you have difficulty locating this information? Let us know in the comments.

Comments

There is a small risk that a fire can start in any mains-powered electrical appliance.

It was the London Fire Brigade that first alerted us to the fact that plastic-backed fridge-freezers were more of a risk, several years ago: https://www.london-fire.gov.uk/news/2015-news/fridge-freezer-delay-putting-lives-at-risk/

The general view is that the risk is small and I have not disposed of my plastic-backed Hotpoint fridge or freezer, but there is a smoke detector and a heat detector that might alert me to a problem.

Once again I ask Which? to look at the use of flammable plastics in the cases of white goods, particularly washing machines and tumble dryers, where there are more fires than with fridges and freezers. If these appliances were built with all-metal cases any fire that starts for any reason would go out when the air inside the appliance had been exhausted. To be sure of this working, the appliances would need metal rather than glass or plastic doors.

I have carried out my own tests on plastics used in the cases of my Bosch dishwasher, the Hotpoint fridge and freezer mentioned above and a Miele washing machine and the samples burned rapidly producing copious black smoke. I have posted many photos of appliances where plastic fascia panels and other parts have burned or melted, allowing fire to spread.

I don’t see the point in just focusing on plastics used in the backs of appliances when it is widely used for other parts of the casings.

As Which? says, the risk is very low. It is most unlikely that any fridge freezers already in the stock of retailers will be withdrawn. Almost none of those already in homes would be expected to be scrapped just because they had plastic backs. Suggesting “making it difficult for people to have confidence they are not purchasing a fire-risk fridge-freezer is, I think, overstating the case. However, educating people that a metal backed freezer is better would be worthwhile. It could leave AO, Argos and Currys with unsold stock – but I expect they’d then discount them and find willing customers.

Plastics are widely used in many products where fires can happen – in aeroplanes, cars for example. It is a case of selecting the right plastic composition for the application. The safety standards for domestic appliances have specific requirements for plastics. Most manufacturers seem to incorporate them successfully. The flammability or otherwise of the plastics used have to pass very specific and repeatable tests. I can make steel burn under particular conditions, so sensible tests are necessary.

The International Standards community, under the IEC, have representatives of 11 national standards organisations currently looking at the whole issue of fire in domestic appliances. i look forward to seeing the findings of those expert and experianced in the field so we can see what improvements may be incorporated, particularly in white goods. We can all, if we think we have constructive ideas, send them to BSI for consideration.

Appliance fires don’t happen under standard conditions. I have posted numerous examples that show plastics in the cases of appliances can burn or melt, allowing the flames to spread. In this example the appliance has a chipboard top – another material that does not survive well in fire. The steel parts of the casing always seem to survive fires so an all metal case has the potential to prevent its spread:

Credit: Pembrokeshire Herald

DerekP says:
14 February 2019

I agree with Malcolm’s point that the term “fire-risk fridge-freezer” may be over-egging the pudding here.

I think the key point is that, under current standards, fridge freezers are already very safe, but can, nonetheless, be made safer by phasing out all plastic backed ones.

My parents used to own a steel backed freezer. Regrettably, it had to be replaced after the steel rusted away, as that then allowed all its insulation (some kind of particulate) to escape from the back of the appliance. In turn, that required the compressor to work continuously to maintain the refrigeration.

No, but meaningful testing is designed to represent the sort of conditions that can occur in practice that can be repeated by any test laboratory to compare performance with appropriate limits. Just like any properly conducted scientific experiment. Just cutting a random sliver of material of uncontrolled proportions and exposing it to an uncontrolled heat source, by way of example, would not be an acceptable international test as part of a useful international specification.

Incidentally, chipboard, in my experience, does not burn easily.

The photos I have posted in this and other Convos provide evidence of use of plastics that melt or burn. Chipboard may not burn as easily as wood but it does burn and I suggest it is not an ideal casing material for an electrical appliance that could go on fire. In the photo above, the chipboard has survived better than the plastic and if you trawl round the photos of burned-out appliances it sometimes survives a fire, but when steel is inexpensive it’s a better option to contain fire.

I do understand the importance of carrying out tests under standard conditions and my own research work relied heavily on this. Once ad hoc experiments suggest that there might be a problem then tests can be carried out under standard conditions.

@ddalton, Daniel, a slight spelling mistake in the title.

DerekP says:
12 February 2019

Oops – yes, get out the spilling chucker…

Fixed.

This article may be of interest to anyone interested in the fire risk associated with fridges etc: https://www.ific.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/IFIC-Forensics-Domestic-Fridges-Fire-Risks-March-2018.pdf

Older fridges and freezers were simple and generally the only electrical component outside the compressor was the thermostat, so if there was a burn-out the fire was contained and the CFC refrigerant was non-flammable. The insulation and interior lining of the appliance may have been flammable but at least there was little chance of ignition.

Modern fridges and freezers are often more complex and automatic defrosting appliances include defrost heaters and timers, and these have been responsible for fires, particularly with some models. As pointed out in the linked article, fires tend to start at the base where the compressor and other electrical components live. Good design would put these components in a metal case, so that if the motor capacitor bursts into flame then the fire will not spread.

There is no suggestion that these appliance are “unsafe”. As Which? says, the risk is very low. Simply stating here one’s ideas of good design seems ineffective as Which? do not appear to take any action or, if they do, they do not tell us. However, as I keep saying, giving one’s ideas on good design directly to those who can evaluate and discuss them – the standards committees – is easy to do by emailing the British Standards Institute. As there is an international group looking at fires in domestic appliances this seems a good time to do so.

I have regularly acknowledged that the risk is small but I do support action by Which? that could reduce the risk. I am trying to engage with Which? because it’s far more likely that they will be listened to than me.

Going back to an earlier topic of access to standards, I think there are Members who could help Which? in its quest to improve product safety. I would see part of this as Which? helping those who are prepared to help and have relevant knowledge and experience to access BSOL. So far there has been no response.

Although you have not said so, I assume that like me, you no longer have unofficial access to BSOL. If registered users of the Glasgow Libraries have access from home, why not make them available to everyone? These standards affect all of us.

Current licensing conditions would not allow Which? to provide us with access: https://bsol.bsigroup.com/TermsAndConditions

Just a quick look but this should seem to cover it – “Authorised Users: means those employees, agents and independent contractors of the Customer who are authorised by the Customer to use the Services as further set out in the Order Form.“.

I do still have access to BSOL but it is possibly “fragile”. I’ll continue to provide information on standards, to the best of my ability, as and when I can.

I would be grateful if you could pass on access details to me via Which?

Please ask Which? to send me an email and I’ll be happy to. 🙂 At the same time could you ask Which? to consider giving specific people access to their BSOL? We can be designated “agents or independent contractors” if we are Members I would have thought.

Thanks Malcolm. I’ve reported your comment.

tom foxe says:
13 February 2019

These appliances should be taken off the shop floor NOW. People who have bought one should be able to return them and get them replaced by a safer model, or get their money back. Suppliers should be named and shamed. If a fire has been caused by an unsafe appliance, the householder should be able to sue the supplier for damages.

Harold Armitage says:
13 February 2019

Pre EUSSR “CE” regulations all our appliances were made to “BS” standards.
Fridge cabinets were all metal and the insulation was mineral wool. Only the interior was plastic. If it did catch fire (unlikely) lack of oxygen soon put it out.
As an employee of the electricity board, I attended several fridge fires back then. All were minor and contained within the all metal cabinet.

British Standards have usually reflected international standards, which BSI help develop. The UK, while in the EU, has continued with this policy. Standards Harmonisation enables all EU countries to trade freely under common standards – ENs – based on IEC standards.

Thanks for posting, Harold. In recent years I have seen many photos of appliances (mainly tumble dryers and washing machines), where a fire has not been contained. The photo above is a typical example.

Peter Webb says:
13 February 2019

How can an appliance be sold if it is a risk of any sort? Cars are not allowed on the road with faults. Appliances should not be allowed in the home if they constitute a risk.

It’s impractical to make products completely risk free. Planes are built to very high standards and go through regular inspection in service because of the serious consequences of problems such as engine failure or fire. As we know there is a very occasional serious incident but air travel has a very good reputation for safety.

Cars are sometimes recalled over safety issues and since ownership of cars is recorded by DVSA the owner can be contacted so that the vehicle can be inspected and modified if necessary.

In the case of freezers and other appliances I wonder why manufacturers were ever allowed to use plastics in the cases when steel is a safer alternative and had been used for years.

I wonder why manufacturers were ever allowed to use plastics in the cases. For the same reason they are used in airplanes, cars and many other products; using the correct plastic in the correct way.

We know that plastic fridge backs increased the risk of spread of fire. When redesigning a product it’s essential to carry out risk assessments and evaluate the suitability of alternative materials.

It is still an extremely small risk. Nevertheless, improving product safety should always be an aim and that is the objectives of IEC who have working groups examining fires in domestic appliances. These are people with knowledge of the topic. As Which? are directly involved with BSI committees they might keep us informed. I’ve got my information direct from BSI so it will not necessarily be confidential.

Have a look at the photo above. My interpretation is that plastic and chipboard are not good materials to contain a fire and prevent it spreading. Glass doors sometimes survive but not always, so a stainless steel door would be a good solution. My previous washing machine had a metal top and fascia.

I think we are going over old ground. If you are right then I’m sure the experts putting international standards together will agree. UL in the States has done work on fire containment and will no doubt have that work taken due notice of; they are on the working group. I’m happy to help them and leave it in their capable hands to resolve.

Should we ban plastics in cars and airplanes?

We most certainly are going over old ground but I am hoping to raise awareness of the risk of using plastic in the cases of appliances. Having discussed the problem with a firefighter who has had to deal with appliance fires, he understands and agrees with my concerns.

It’s years since we first discussed the work that UL (the US Underwriters Laboratory) has done on fire containment, but I don’t believe that our standards require fire containment to be tested. I wonder how many homes will be wrecked or worse before action is taken.

Raising awareness needs to be done on a sound basis. Plastics are widely used in situations where there might be a heat hazard – the inlet manifold on my car is “plastic” and over 50% of a modern airliner is also plastic. If the international standards experts agree with your concerns (fire brigades are represented) then your suggestions will be satisfied.

The incidence of reported fires in major domestic appliances is around 0.0025%. This will encompass appliances of all ages, those that have been abused, misused, not been maintained, as well as the inevitable fault that can happen with time. It is good to look at pragmatic ways to improve this, but we should not scaremonger when, in my view, it is not warranted.

There is absolutely no problem with use of plastic parts inside appliances providing that in the event of fire it will not spread. A metal case could still contain fire where an appliance has not been properly used or maintained. Think of someone who lives in a flat or tower block. They might be responsible but another occupant might not. We design cars with all sorts of protection so that the occupants are protected if the driver or someone else makes a mistake.

DerekP says:
14 February 2019

Interestingly, top loading compact automatics don’t seem to bother having glass doors:

hotpoint.co.uk/h/laundry/washing-machines/hotpoint-aquarius-wmtf-722-h-washing-machine-white/f087755

Larger top loading washing machines are very common in the US. Unlike a front loading machine there is no need for a door to retain the contents of the machine when in use.

Helen Holmes says:
13 February 2019

We need to stop using plastic full stop: we are polluting the earth, the oceans, and through the food chain, every human on earth. And with the petro-chemical industry forecast to come to a grinding halt in 50 years, we might as well start to stop now. Let British manufacturers lead the way, with the plus of making such appliances even safer than they are now.

Everything has a risk attached to it. Faults are not the same – they imply something that deviates from the design that has previously been approved. A serious fault that is part of the original design should result in the product not passing a safety standard and not, therefore, legal to put on the market.

michael says:
13 February 2019

It amazes me that these products are allowed to be sold. Make them illegal, and make it compulsory for those that are plastic backed to be rebuilt with a metal back, so they do not end up in landfill.

Jeff Remington says:
13 February 2019

The problem is that, in my case, a Hotpoint fridge is CE marked and sticker on it states that it is made in Turkey. What it omits to say is that in reality it is assembled in Turkey as the parts in it are Chinese. The Chinese compressor has no CE marking and in my case almost started a fire. It started to spark from underneath just as I was walking past it on my way to bed. A few minutes later and I would be none the wiser until the flames would have cut off my escape route.
All electrical appliances imported into the UK need to be tested in the UK to the relevant British Standard and a CE marking, which can be self certified, should not be accepted as an indicator that the appliance passes safety standards.
I have seen Chinese goods where the CE certificate is actually a forgery from another testing house, photocopied over and over to hide its original certified item, then filled in and photocopied in bulk.

CE marking is an EU requirement and the supporting information to be provided is both detailed and extensive and held in the EU. However we cannot stop delinquent manufacturers from cheating. That is why we need a proper product policing regime, from Trading Standards or similar, to check compliance. That is also an EU requirement.

Did you report your appliance to Trading Standards? That could start a check on the validity of any claims made that are not substantiated. The whole appliance is covered by the CE mark and all components should be compliant. On the other hand you may have simply had a faulty component, or damage. Worth pursuing for everyone’s benefit if you still can.

Jeff – I’m sorry to hear about your near disaster. The fire was probably started beside the compressor at the lower back of the fridge. The compressor itself is encased in metal and will not burn, but the fire could start in other electrical parts such as a motor capacitor or damaged wiring. Flammable plastics can help spread the fire, as can other materials stored nearby.

As Malcolm has said, the whole appliance would be covered by CE marking but as you have pointed out, this is simply a declaration by the manufacturer that it has complied with applicable standards.

“this is simply a declaration by the manufacturer“. It is a strictly regulated declaration by the EU. Reputable manufacturers will not make such a declaration without the full supporting evidence required to be held. Delinquent manufacturers will always find ways of cheating; the only way is to properly fund Trading Standards to meet their obligation of policing the system.

In the absence of an effective Trading Standards system, those responsible for creating the standards could do their own investigations to study manufacturers’ compliance with standards and take appropriate action if necessary. I know that there are representatives on the relevant committee but simply waiting to find out how many fires occur is not really good enough.

Jeff,
Re “… the flames would have cut off my escape route”. At the risk of stating the obvious, you appear to be living in a potential flame-trap, which does NOT have an escape route. My ‘Home Safety System’ relies on electrical and gas-fuelled appliances being installed away from living and sleeping quarters, with smoke detector-alarm units between me and them and exit routes away from them. I would think more then twice before compromising my safety by installing any potentially incendiary device between myself and safety.

In an ideal world we would all live by these home safety system rules but unfortunately with smaller properties this is often just not practical.

The IEC and ISO are responsible for creating standards. BSI is our representative and is a private company. I would not want to see the government paying a private, profit-making company to do the job that Trading Standards has been nominated to do. We need TS in all sorts of ways and it should be properly funded by government to meet its responsibilities properly and protect consumers.

DerekP says:
14 February 2019

When I had a college room in a garret, its fire precautions included one of these:

safelincs.co.uk/davy-descender-descent-controlled-fire-escape/

I wasn’t allowed to practice using it though, not even during rag week.

Our garret had signs.

That’s all. No ladder.

DerekP says:
14 February 2019

What did the signs say? If all else fails, shin down the drainpipe?

Jeff Remington says:
15 February 2019

Easily said than done.I live in a listed building with thatched roof. The layout of the house cannot be changed. I have to get planning permission to sneeze let alone change windows to provide a means of escape in case of a fire. Trading standards were notified and although they saw a problem with the fridge design, thats as far as it got. Problem was the evaporator bowl was glued on poorly so water was going into the terminal box on the side of the compressor and straight into the unsealed safety cutout switch. Hotpoint did repair it in the end after I posted on their Facebook page.

Jeff is referring to a plastic bowl or tray mounted on top of the compressor. Condensate drips from the evaporator inside fridges and is drained into the bowl, where the heat rising from the compressor evaporates it. The plastic box on the side of the compressor covers an overload cutout that protects the compressor if it fails to start due to back-pressure in the system. Normally not much water is present in the bowl but in humid conditions more could accumulate and if the fridge was moved the water could spill and get onto the electrical connections below.

My Hotpoint fridge is designed in the same way. There is nothing inherently wrong in having a plastic tray securely mounted on the compressor (don’t rely on glue when the temperature is constantly changing), and is very common in larder fridges. The design fault is that the cover over the overload cutout does not prevent access of water to the electrical connections below. After seeing Jeff’s post I removed the cover and established that there is no seal present to discourage water ingress. This is incredibly poor design.

Aileen Langford says:
13 February 2019

Not only should they be made to remove them from retailers they should replace each and every one sold in the last five years… What price life?

Biz King says:
13 February 2019

I think that there needs to be a mechanism to show the general public whether or not these fridge/freezers are as safe as the other ones on sale

DerekP says:
14 February 2019

Actually, I think a reasonably compelling counter case – i.e. that metal-backed fridges ones are safer than plastic backed ones – has been made by Which?

But it is very difficult to quantify the exact risks in any given case.

As the owner of a pre-installed plastic backed fridge freezer, as supplied by the builders of my house, I have no plans to urgently replace it.

That said, I have made a policy decision that my kitchen door should be “normally closed”, to impede the progress of any fire that might start in my kitchen. I have have a two viable fire escape routes that do not require passing by the kitchen door. I also keep a fire blanket and a small ABC dry powder extinguisher in my kitchen, placed to remain accessible in the event of a fire there.

David Melling says:
13 February 2019

Both the manufacturer and retailer have a duty of care to their customers if they sell a product that they know can cause a dangerous situation then they must be legally liable for that customer to take legal action against them. This could be the next miss selling claim.

Linda says:
13 February 2019

Am currently trying to buy a metal-backed fridge-freezer and am INFURIATED by retailers’ failures to flag up what I think is key information early on. I can search a retailer’s web site for fridge-freezers that are integrated or split 50/50, for example, but why I can’t I search as easily for metal-backed or flame-retardant backed fridge-freezers?

Could Which put pressure on the retailers, government or both to make retailers’ websites searchable by this the type of backing? I’m motivated enough to go to the technical specifications for each brand of fridge-freezer – but it’s a time consuming business and many other potential purchasers won’t do this.

Any electrical item which is on 24 / 7 is potentially a safety risk.

Hi Linda – Which has a lists of fridge-freezers with plastic backs on their website:
https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/fridge-freezers/article/recommendations/which-dont-buy-fridge-freezers

You can find the same information for freezers and fridges on the website.

John Bolton says:
13 February 2019

Unbelievable ! … What happened to the kite mark & BSS ? (British Safety Standards)
Are they british made or from other EU countries slipping through the net ? … Is this
another EU failure like millions of bad eggs that came from holland & millions of boxes
of infected baby food from france, etc… ? UK style AC mains plugs, adapters and
socket strips are getting to the UK from germany without the protective 13AMP
fuse (probably to produce cheaper), but not meeting BSS ! …

DerekP says:
14 February 2019

Personally, I’d rate bad eggs and infected baby food as obviously “sub-standard” goods, i.e. goods that were not as intended by their producers.

On the other hand, whilst plastic backed fridges can meet all current safety standards, this Convo is about the realisation that further safety improvements are readily practicable and thus should be implemented.

I believe the latest EN safety standard addresses some of the issues. The EC is responsible for the regulations that govern the safety of electrical domestic appliances. They can choose whatever standard they wish, amend one, impose their own conditions presumably. If they believed there was a significant safety risk they could require offending products be withdrawn from sale.

Replacing the backs of fridges etc with a non-flammable material will make a very very small risk slightly smaller. I support that. What I do not support is creating alarmist headlines that can create unnecessary panic and anxiety among people who own fridges with plastic backs when it is quite unwarranted. These appliances are not “unsafe”. There are more responsible ways of reporting such matters, and of making improvements.

Any Government seem too reluctant to improve the law speedily. True there are few problems but when they do come they have too often been catastrophic as we all know.

DerekP says:
14 February 2019

Also, the UK Government is a wee bit busy on other matters just now…

Thrashing around like a drowning cow comes to mind…

David says:
13 February 2019

If manufacturers won’t make fridges safer voluntarily, they must be compelled by law.

DerekP says:
14 February 2019

Which? have already listed the safer designs and the less safe designs. Hence, with that information, consumers can now vote with their feet and their wallets.

J STEPHENSON says:
13 February 2019

Having a small fire smouldering on a bed from the electric blanket – in an old farmhouse – where the nearest fire station was 3 miles away with retained firefighters – my father in law and I acted quickly – throwing the bedding out of the small window and taking the mattress out between us – as the old, old farmhouse would have burnt to the ground if we hadn’t acted!! Not recommended because of smoke inhalation but adrenaline made us act first which worked at that time – early eighties!

As someone who had a home that caught on fire by the previous owner rewiring the property himself!!!!!!!!!
The firefighters said if I hadn’t had the airing cupboard so full it contained the fire for sometime!!
The firefighter said if the fire had happened at night we wouldn’t have got out of the house as there was blown vinyl wallpaper on all the walls and ceilings, which he said the fire would have caught hold rapidly and flames dropped onto the beds and us etc!!
The fire crew said the amount of invisible or not obvious fire hazards in a home are unbelievable – we were out of the house for three months – looking back at the assessors photos I hadn’t realised how bad the damage had been – I was pleased my children and their friends and I got out ok! 1987

Being at school when there was a huge fire – started on the stage where all the plastic chairs for assemblies etc were stored and where there were masses of material in the curtains – one staircase completely blocked off by the palls of black smoke – the first 3 years of children had not had a fire drill and the pandemonium caused is ingrained in my memory !!!!! 1974

No items electrical or otherwise which is permanently using electricity should have plastic material near to parts that get hot and have a chance to ignite putting lives in danger – people only need to recall The Grenfell Tower fire!!
If things in the 50’s n 60’s could be made safely then products today should be made equally safely!

In the 60s and 70s, expanded polystyrene ceiling tiles were popular but they could spread fire and were a real problem in kitchens. Most have long gone but I saw these tiles recently in an older property. I assumed that blown vinyl wallpaper was fire retardant, but maybe not.

They were especially hazardous if they had been overpainted. They were usually used as an economical way of adding insulation and of improving the appearance of an irregular ceiling. They should never have been used in kitchens but frequently were. I don’t think they have been available for many years now but many properties may still have them. Plasterboard coving has also replaced expanded polystyrene as a way of covering an uneven join between the walls and the ceiling. Plaster and plasterboard have high fire-resistance properties and modern water-based paints are also less prone to combustion.

After the hazards of polystyrene tiles were recognised, the next problem was the popularity of ceiling downlighters. As you say, traditional ceiling materials have good fire resistance but installing downlighters makes holes in the fire barrier. Halogen downlighters produce a great deal of heat and can themselves be a fire risk. Downlighters that protect against these hazards are available and should be installed in kitchens.

My concern here is the use of the plastics in the casings of white goods but there are other examples of introduction of products into our homes without adequate testing to discover if there are fire hazards.