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Halon Extinguishers

The Facts

Halons are highly ozone destructive.

  • Yellow fire extinguishers contain halon 1211. They can't be serviced in New Zealand, so yours might not work in a fire.

  • You should replace all yellow fire extinguishers and any fixed systems that use halon 1211

  • Government subsidies for the collection of halon 1211 are available for a limited period only.

  • The government will not make halons illegal.

Halons 1211 and 1301 were once used extensively in fire protection systems and extinguishers.  The use of halon has been discontinued in most circumstances because they damage the ozone layer.  Although less well known than CFC's, halons are much more destructive:

  • The 80 grams of CFC in a domestic refrigerator could destroy up to 3 tonnes of atmospheric ozone.

  • The 1.4 kilograms of halon 1211 in a yellow hand-hand extinguisher could destroy about 20 tonnes of atmospheric ozone.  That's the equivalent of 500 dairy tankers full of ozone.

  • One kilogram of halon 1301 destroys an estimated 50 tonnes of atmospheric ozone.

New Zealand has not imported halons for general use for some time, but we still have many tonnes left from older systems.  The Ministry for the Environment has therefore developed as strategy to minimise the release of the remaining halons into the atmosphere and to ensure the safe destruction of all halons that have been decommissioned.  The strategy is based on a partnership between the fire protection industry, through Halon Recycling Ltd, and the Ministry for the Environment.

The Ministry for the Environment has written to all large organisations likely to hold significant amounts of halons.  We cannot, however, identify organisations that might have small quantities of halons.  We are asking fire protection companies and regional and local councils to pass information on.

To find out what to do with your halons, about alternative fire protection, please contact your usual fire protection agent.

Or Halon Recycling Ltd, 0800 HALON HELP (0800 425 664), PO box 302 372, NHPC, Auckland or email fpanz@fireprotection.org.nz.

If you would like to know more about the broader halon strategy, or the Ministry for the Environment's ozone layer protection programme, please contact the Ministry's head office or www.mfe.govt.nz.

      Halon 1211 (Bromochlorofluoromethane)                                                                                     Top

Halon 1211 was once widely used in yellow, hand-held fire extinguishers and in fixed, unmanned fire protection systems, but it has largely been superseded for these purposes.  We encourage organisations still using halon 1211 to plan for the decommissioning of any remaining systems and the destruction of the halons.

Businesses should know that:

  • Yellow hand-held fire extinguishers are no longer serviced in New Zealand, so they cannot be recharged and may not function in a fire.  Yellow extinguishers should be replaced with an appropriate modern alternative.  

  • Where halon 1211 is installed in fixed systems, such as in substations and computer facilities, we are asking owners to consider replacing their systems by 2003.

  • Halon 1211 should be sent to Australia for environmentally safe destruction at the DASCEM plant in Melbourne.  

  • Halon Recycling Ltd, a non-profit making company set up the the fire protection industry, is administering the subsidy.

  • Organisations that cannot met the cost of transport and disposal should ensure that stocks of halon are securely stored.  The Government will not be regulating to prohibit use of, or holding stocks of, halons, so no penalties will apply to companies continuing to store the material.

  • Under no circumstances, except when fighting fires, should halon 1211 be released into the atmosphere.  Because halon 1211 is so damaging to the ozone layer, deliberate, unnecessary release is an offence under the Ozone Layer Protection act 1996.

      Halon 1301 (Bromotrifluoromethane)                                                                                           Top

Halon 1301 is still essential for human safety in small number sites, mainly confined spaces in aircraft and some ships.  Halon 1301 has not been manufactured for use in developed countries for some time, and existing supplies need to be conserved carefully for essential purposes.  Many of the maritime and aviation organisations with a continuing need for halon 1301 are already managing their own supplies.  Any other organisations likely to need it for essential purposes as indicated about should contact Halon Recycling Ltd for advice.

We advise companies with halon 1301 in computer rooms and non-essential spaces to plan now for decommissioning g by 2003.  

Halon 1301 is the most ozone-destructive  substance know.  Like halon 1211, it should never be released to the atmosphere, except when being used to fight fires.  Deliberate and unnecessary release is an offence under the Ozone Layer Protection Act 1996.

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