More testing shows continued failure of 'no-name' cable

Aug. 24, 2012
CCCA says results show problem is still prevalent, calls for QA testing of finished cable samples taken from the marketplace.

Another round of electrical- and fire-safety performance testing, commissioned by the Communications Cable and Connectivity Association (CCCA) and conducted on cable brands that are largely unknown in North America, has yielded similar results to previous testing. Namely, five of six samples tested failed to meet the minimum National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code requirements for low flame spread and/or smoke generation for installation in commercial buildings, schools and multi-tenant residences.

The CCCA reports that four of the five failing samples showed results that are considered catastrophic failures, and in one case the chamber used to conduct the burn tests had to be shut down because the "fire was so virulent." When making the test results public, the CCCA said, "Extreme failures like these indicate an unacceptable public safety hazard still exists."

The CCCA commissioned an independent laboratory to conduct the tests in July, the association says, "to analyze whether a sample set of offshore-manufactured cable samples met NFPA minimum requirements for fire safety." After fire-safety testing conducted in 2008 and 2009 yielded results similar to these, the CCCA commissioned this round to determine if the problem had subsided in the years since then. "The test results suggest that the problem is still very prevalent," the CCCA said.

The CCCA's executive director Frank Peri pointed out, "It is significant that none of the failing samples were certified under UL's fire safety listing program. This also means that unscrupulous manufacturers may be moving to other testing agencies with more lenient quality programs, or using unauthorized marks from these agencies. This is disturbing and our concern cannot be understated because these potentially hazardous cables are being installed in buildings today. The potential liabilities we have addressed and risk to public safety in the event of a fire are unacceptable."

While one lab was testing the cables for flame and smoke performance, a separate lab was testing other cuts of the same cables for electrical performance. The results were not much better, the CCCA says. "Four of the five cables, which failed the fire safety requirements, also failed to meet minimum electrical performance required by industry standards for Category 5e and 6 cables, to which independent test certifications were also claimed," the CCCA reported.

Peri commented, "As in 2008 and 2009, these recently procured cables were made with inferior materials for this application and inadequate cable designs to cut production costs. Based on material analyses, samples predictably failed the minimum safety requirements." The CCCA explained that in advance of these electrical-performance and flame/smoke-generation tests, a lab analyzed the materials contained in each of the six cable samples for flame- and smoke-retardant characteristics. That analysis ended up reliably predicting the ultimate results. Peri said, "As we have demonstrated twice now, material testing is a viable means of predicting fire safety performance from samples obtained in the marketplace and can be accomplished with samples as short as 5 feet in length."

He also stated, "The CCCA has taken the position that this serious problem will not go away until quality assurance procedures include testing of samples of finished cable procured directly from the marketplace."

The CCCA prepared a document showing individual and average results of the cables tested in the areas of flame spread, pake smoke and average smoke. The document includes average results against NFPA 262 limits. You can download the document here.

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