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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Testing of Cotton Bales to Evaluate Flammability and Hazard Potential

Authors
item Wakelyn, Phillip - WASHINGTON DC
item Hughs, Sidney

Submitted to: Business Communications Company Conference on Flame Retardancy
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 1, 2001
Publication Date: May 21, 2001

Interpretive Summary: Bales of cotton were classified by the International Maritime Organization regulations as a flammable solid. This meant cotton bales were considered as hazardous cargo for purposes of shipment by water. The flammable classification was based primarily on anecdotal evidence and not on scientific evidence. Several standard flame tests were conducted on universal density (UD) cotton bales to determine if UD cotton bales qualified for the hazardous flammability designation. Besides the standard tests, UD cotton bales were evaluated for their potential for self-heating and spontaneous combustion and their potential for sustaining internal smoldering combustion. All of the tests and evaluations indicted that UD bales were not deserving of the flammable solid designation. As a result, the flammable solid designation has been removed from UD cotton bales saving the U.S. cotton industry millions of dollars annually in insurance and other hazardous cargo feels.

Technical Abstract: Bales of cotton were classified by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) code regulations as a flammable solid (Class 4.1), which required hazardous goods papers to accompany waterborne shipments. This IMO regulation was based largely on anecdotal evidence and historical beliefs/perceptions not substantiated by science. Research was conducted to evaluate the flammability hazard of bales of cotton to determine if thi hazardous designation was valid. Cigarette (NFPA 261/ASTM E1352), match (NFPA 705), and open flame (CA TB129/ASTM E1590) tests were conducted; the potential for self-heating and spontaneous combustion was evaluated; and the potential of cotton bales sustaining smoldering combustion in their interiors at various compression densities was studied. These flammability evaluations led to the IMO and the US DOT removing the "flammable solid" designation for baled cotton [compressed to a density of 360 kg/m**3 (22.4 lb/ft**3) or greater; meets ISO 8115], effective Jan. 1, 1999.

Last Modified: 8/1/2014
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