Safety matches are 'safe' because they don't spontaneously combust. You have to strike them against a special surface in order to get them to ignite. The match heads contain sulphur (sometimes antimony III sulphide or stibnite) and oxidizing agents (usually potassium chlorate), with powdered glass, colorants, fillers, and a binder made of glue and starch. The striking surface consists of powdered glass or silica (sand), red phosphorus, binder, and filler. When you strike a safety match, the glass-on-glass friction generates heat, converting a small amount of red phosphorus to white phosphorus vapour. White phosphorus spontaneously ignites, decomposing potassium chlorate and liberating oxygen. At this point, the sulphur starts to burn, which ignites the wood of the match.
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