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The effects of oxygen on the thermal decomposition of organic polymers are first described. Evidence for the involvement of oxygen in the primary decomposition stage of polymer combustion is then reviewed and factors which determine whether or not oxygen is present during this stage are considered. Some suggestions are also made as to ways in which it might be possible to exclude oxygen from the region where polymer breakdown first occurs and thus decrease the readiness with which polymeric materials are initially ignited. Finally the desirability is stressed of further studies being made of the oxidative pyrolysis of organic polymers.