What is Halon and How Does it Work?

Halon is a "Clean Agent." The National Fire Protection Association defines, a "Clean Agent" as "an electrically non-conducting, volatile, or gaseous fire extinguishant that does not leave a residue upon evaporation."

Halon is a liquefied, compressed gas that stops the spread of fire by chemically disrupting combustion. Halon 1211 (a liquid streaming agent) and Halon 1301 (a gaseous flooding agent) leave no residue and are remarkably safe for human exposure. Halon is rated for class "B" (flammable liquids) and "C" (electrical fires), but it is also effective on class "A" (common combustibles) fires. Halon 1211 and Halon 1301 are low-toxicity, chemically stable compounds that, as long as they remain contained in cylinders, are easily recyclable.

Halon is an extraordinarily effective fire extinguishing agent, even at low concentrations. According to the Halon Alternative Research Corporation: "Three things must come together at the same time to start a fire. The first ingredient is fuel (anything that can burn), the second is oxygen (normal breathing air is ample) and the last is an ignition source (high heat can cause a fire even without a spark or open flame). Traditionally, to stop a fire you need to remove one side of the triangle - the ignition, the fuel or the oxygen. Halon adds a fourth dimension to fire fighting - breaking the chain reaction. It stops the fuel, the ignition and the oxygen from dancing together by chemically reacting with them."

A key benefit of Halon, as a clean agent, is its ability to extinguish fire without the production of residues that could damage the assets being protected. Halon has been used for fire and explosion protection throughout the 20th century, and remains an integral part of the safety plans in many of today's manufacturing, electronic and aviation companies. Halon protects computer and communication rooms throughout the electronics industry; it has numerous military applications on ships, aircraft and tanks and helps ensure safety on all commercial aircraft.

Because Halon is a CFC, production of new Halon ceased in 1994. There is no cost effective means of safely and effectively disposing of the Halon. Therefore, recycling and reusing the existing supply intelligently and responsibly to protect lives and property is the wisest solution.