• Up in the Air

    Fire Safety, Politics and the Environment


    • Don't Blow-Off Halon!
    • October 20, 2009

    By Bill Polits


    A lot of end-users have written-off halon as a viable choice for their current fire suppression needs. Rumors circulate, saying that halon is toxic, that halon has been outlawed. Then people have questions: is halon available? Does it take away the oxygen in the room? And for every question I’ve heard, there are at least four wrong answers.


    Three things are for sure, however:


    - Halon has a very high ozone depletion potential (ODP).

    - Halon has a high global warming potential (GWP).
    - Since 1994, halon has not been manufactured in developed nations.


    Two other things are also very much for certain:


    - There is no other clean agent that is halons equal with respect to its fire-fighting capabilities.

    • - Recycled halon is legal to use in “critical-use” applications and like aviation as well as in existing suppression systems throughout the United States. As a matter of fact, halon is more widely used in many applications than many people realize.


    • Here is an assertion that may turn a head or two: using halon is good for the environment! Why? Since halon is such an effective fire suppression agent and since the US has allowed halon to be used in the manner described above, the value of halon has remained high enough to make it worthwhile to responsibly reclaim, recycle and redeploy the agent.


    Contrast the situation in the US to that in Europe, where the EU outlawed the use of Halon 1301 outright. Since these laws made the agent nearly worthless, it made better economic sense for a lot of users of the gas to simply vent it to the atmosphere rather than to deal with it in a responsible manner.


    Thus, even though production of halon is no longer allowed, when used in accordance with the EPA’s Final Rule Summary: Halon/Halon Blends and the Guidance for the EPA Halon Emission Reduction Rule, the remaining stock of halon can be deployed responsibly.