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Regulatory gaps exposed in London fire

Two products made by American companies contributed to a high-rise fire in London. Stronger regulations in the United States have kept both of these products out of homes and apartment buildings.

Slight differences in price are often the determining factor for builders when there isn’t a specific rule about what must or must not be used. For example, the back of the Whirlpool refrigerator that started the fire was made of plastic rather than metal. The Arconic insulation and cladding used in the building contained flammable materials that was a little cheaper than the fire-resistant alternatives.

Differing standards and a company response

The Arconic cladding cannot be used in the U.S. for building above a certain height because of way the insulation can allow a fire to spread rapidly. The company even included a warning in some its European brochures about the product's use in high-rises. This was not the first fire linked to the potentially dangerous product; it had been blamed in others over the years.

In a response following the fire, the company said it would no longer sell the product, Reynobond PE, for use on high-rise projects. But why hadn’t the company already implemented that type of policy? This wasn’t the first case. How does a company ensure one of its products isn’t improperly used to save money? Generally, regulations in a building code and inspections provide a better solution. This illustrates the benefit of safety regulations.

Metal versus plastic backing on refrigerators

The U.S. and Britain have about the same proportional number of refrigerator fires. But more deaths occur in U.K. partly because of difference in the backing.

In the U.S., most refrigerators use metal backing. The refrigerator that started the blaze had a plastic backing, which is flammable. A plastic backing also doesn’t provide protection against the inside foam catching fire. Because of these issues, the London Fire Brigade had been attempting to get the products banned for some time.

Government regulations have an effect that must be carefully reviewed even as deregulation gains prominence. Legal recourse in the U.S. Courts also continues to afford monetary damages that can curb the irresponsible and dangerous conduct that led to these tragic deaths.

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