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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Evaluation of the Flammability of Cotton Bales

Authors
item Wakelyn, Phillip - WASHINGTON, D.C.
item Hughs, Sidney

Submitted to: Fire and Materials: Flammability and Flame Retardant Textiles
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 29, 2002
Publication Date: December 16, 2002
Citation: WAKELYN, P.J., HUGHS, S.E. EVALUATION OF THE FLAMMABILITY OF COTTON BALES. FIRE AND MATERIALS: FLAMMABILITY AND FLAME RETARDANT TEXTILES. 2002. v. 26. p. 183-189.

Interpretive Summary: Research was conducted to determine if the flammability hazard of modern universal density (UD) cotton bales was severe enough to be designated as a flammable solid for purposes of transportation. The National Cotton Council and the USDA, ARS, Southwestern Cotton Ginning Research Laboratory investigated the UD cotton bale flammability hazard using standard cigarette, match, and open flame tests; the possibility of self-heating and spontaneous combustion; and the likelihood of sustained smoldering combustion internal to the UD cotton bale, creating a delayed fire hazard. These investigations showed that these possibilities for initiating combustion were either highly unlikely or were at such a low level as to not qualify UD cotton bales as flammable solids. These investigations resulted in the U.S. Department of Transportation removing the flammable solid designation from UD cotton bales, thereby saving the cotton industry millions of dollars per year in insurance costs.

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. Various scientific investigations were conducted to evaluate the flammability hazard of bales of cotton to determine if this hazardous designation was valid. Cigarette (NFPA 261/ASTM E1352), match (NFPA 705) and open flame (CA TB 129) 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 studies showed that bales of cotton should not be required to have the hazardous designation,'flammable solid', and led to the IMO and the US Department of Transportation (DOT) removing the designation for baled cotton [compressed to a density of 360 kg/m**3 (22.4 lb/ft**3) or greater; meets ISO 8115], with effect from 1 January 1999. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Last Modified: 8/29/2014
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