Modern Composition

Typical composition of a "strike-anywhere" match today:
Reactants: KClO3 (20%), P4S3 (9%); Fillers/moderators: Ground glass (14%), Fe2O3 (11%) and ZnO (7%). Adhesives: Glue (10%) and water (29%). This formulation replaces the original "strike-anywhere" match, whose primary ingredient was toxic white phosphorus.

Safety Matches use a match head that is predominantly KClO3, struck against the match box surface, which is composed of non-toxic red phosphorus (49.5%), Sb2S3 (27.6%), Fe2O3 (1.2%) and gum Arabic (21.7%).

In 1992 Bryant & May issued a reformulated environmentally friendly match. They replaced the sulphur (at the time suspected to contribute to acid rain) content with ferrophosphorus, a by-product of phosphorus manufacture. The also removed the zinc oxide filler, which is harmful to fish, and replaced it with calcium carbonate. The packaging was made out of recycled material and the animal-hide glue content was reduced. Investigations were also undertaken to find a substitute for KClO3. The environmental impact of matches extends beyond their immediate use to their manufacture, and Bryant & May were seeking to address both these issues to make their product more attractive to (supposedly) more environmentally aware consumers. However match usage in Europe and the USA had began to diminish due to increased use of electricity and central heating and the environmentally friendlier matches made little or no difference to the decreasing sales.
In developing countries match production continues unabated. In South India there are 500 small firms that make and supply matches to surrounding villages and towns. And it is their demand for KClO3 that accounts for most of the 50,000 tonnes produced each year.

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