Fire Retardants

Three Surprising Sources of Fire Retardants

A crucial element of the rescue process is response time. Rescuers are trained to be at the disaster site with a small window of time. Firefighters will be the first people we think about when it comes to this topic. Their headquarters are designed for them to just pick up their equipment and head over to the burning site. And they will be there in minutes.

In an urban setting, they will have easy access to fire hydrants because these are their water source. But in an outdoor setting with no access to these, what can be done? They can use a smaller vehicle with a firefighting trailer unit attached to it. A firefighting trailer unit can store a large supply of water, which should hopefully be enough to at least buy the rescuers plenty of time before backup arrives.

Where fires are concerned, the first line of defense usually consists of fire extinguishers and gallons of water. Some substances contain flame retardants. These are chemicals or materials with properties that can stop or delay the spread of fire. These can come in the form of a foam substance or coating.

Here are examples of where you can source flame retardants. These might surprise you.


Yes, that DNA. Deoxyribonucleic acid is otherwise known as the blueprint of life. It’s a molecule made up of two sugar phosphates that act as backbones, with a pair of bases connecting them and forming a double helix. These bases are adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine. Knowing these is essential in decoding a DNA sequence.

study conducted in 2013 showed the potential use of DNA as a fire retardant. The samples were extracted from the sperm of herring. The key is in the sugar phosphates and the bases, and in how they react when exposed to heat. They discovered that DNA had fire-retardant properties such as the ability to dilute flammable gas and create a coating that could remove oxygen. This was demonstrated by coating a piece of cotton with DNA and lighting it up. It was able to resist being burned.



A mussel produces a sticky substance that enables it to cling to rocks. This substance contains polydopamine, which is the resulting product when dopamine undergoes oxidation. It can produce char, which is a carbon product that can block the spread of fire. A 2015 study found that after the extraction of polydopamine, there was no need to manipulate its form. They were able to use it right away.

Oyster Shell

Mineral filler flame retardants can slow down the release of fire. An example of this is calcium carbonate, which is a chemical compound found in oyster shells. Being non-flammable means that it can dilute fuels. There was a study in 2009 where oyster shell powder was mixed with another material. Its results showed that they were able to lower the flame duration and also maintained the rigidity of the material.

It’s amazing to know that these convenient sources for flame retardant materials exist. Here’s hoping that there will be more strides in this research.

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