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European debate on the safety

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Bioethanol fires, as well as other materials, must be manufactured, marketed and used according to the strict standards and procedures. Wider popularity of bio fires, an increasing number of models available for sale, as well as exceptional pieces of information about the cases challenging the issue of its safe use speak in favour of the development of specific provisions. Therefore, European Commission has been carrying out a public consultation on the safety of alcohol-fuelled fireplaces for over a year now.

Public discussion is intended to help in the development of European standards, setting out harmonized safety requirements, introducing quantitative limits for the escape of carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide as well as imposing an obligation to label the products with adequate instructions and warnings.

In view of the worrying signals regarding hazardous incidents while using the bioethanol fires, the European Commission has commissioned the development of a detailed report describing the risks carried by the devices. Prepared report contains the results of the current situation as well as the proposals for technical requirements, testing methods, descriptions of instructions and warnings attached to the products.

Market research showed that national security requirements concerning the bio fires apply only in a few EU countries: France, Germany and the Scandinavian countries (where they were developed based on the Swedish safety standard). Having analysed these requirements, it turned out that there are only small differences between them and the basic safety considerations relate to the same issues, i.e. mainly to the safety of the structure and the amount of substances hazardous to health escaping into the air.

The main theme which was discussed by the public was the scope of safety requirements and the advancement of the construction solutions which would be introduced by the standard. Manufacturers may be imposed with relevant standards only in the scope of basic construction of the goods, or additionally, an obligation of using electronic protections may be introduced, which in case of losing the stability or exceeding the limits of hazardous substances escape, automatically cut off the fuel supply to the burner and extinguish the bio ethanol fireplace.

Though in case of the structure itself the safety requirements are obvious and necessary, in case of extra protections in the form of electronic cards it is no longer so unquestionable.

Most of the bioethanol fires on the market are simple in structure, and their design features prevent direct contact of the user with the flame and the burner, spontaneous ignition or fuel spillage. Equipping them with additional, costly electronic cards may not be justified economically. Of course, on the European market there are more and more bio fires equipped with such advanced solutions, though the number of these very simple models is still prevailing. Introduction of such requirements in respect to all bioethanol fires, on the one hand would ensure a very high level of users protection, but on the other – would probably eliminate cheaper products from the market, and thereby limit the consumer’s choice.

The full report prepared for European Commission can read in the English version or in an abridged Polish version.