Demand for flame resistant fibres and fabrics is growing strongly and will continue to do so over the next five years, according to a new report.

Growth is being driven by increased interest in multifunctional protective wear and evermore stringent legislation in developed and developing countries says the latest issue of 'Performance Apparel Markets' published by Textiles Intelligence.

Indeed, basic workwear is being replaced by protective wear made from flame resistant fabrics, as flame resistance is combined with other properties - including greater comfort.

In terms of market potential, general fire resistant apparel in the US is estimated to be worth more than US$1,844m a year, and this figure is expected to reach US$2,659m by 2012.

In Western Europe, heat and flame resistant protective clothing is estimated to be worth over EUR300m (US$392m), and is forecast to reach EUR382m in 2012.

The manmade fibre industry is investing heavily in research and development into flame resistance, according to the report on Flame resistant fibres and fabrics, with the result that a wide range of fabrics are available.

Flame resistant fabrics are used in apparel for three main applications: industrial workwear; firefighters' apparel; and professional racing apparel.

In each case, the appropriate materials are chosen to suit the type of hazards prevalent.

In terms of key producers, the market is highly fragmented, albeit with some well-known brands. Overall, the market is polarised between high-priced, high-performing products and low-cost, lower performance products.

Key growth areas include multi-functional fibres in which flame resistance is combined with other properties, and growing demand in Asian countries. There are concerns over environmental issues, but the overall outlook for the flame resistant market is optimistic the report concludes.