Q. If we have five twenty-pound halon fire extinguishers, what are the federal regulations applicable to ozone-depleting substances (ODSs) for what we have?
A. Halon is a Class I ozone-depleting substance (ODS), the production of which was completely phased-out in 1994. However, existing stocks remained.
In 1998, EPA issued regulations dealing with the handling and disposal of halon and halon-containing equipment under 40 CFR 82.250 to 82.270. The regulations prohibit the release into the atmosphere of any halons used in equipment to store, transfer, and/or disperse halon. However, under 40 CFR 82.270(b)(6), “This prohibition does not apply to the emergency release of halons for the legitimate purpose of fire extinguishing, explosion inertion, or other emergency applications for which the equipment or systems were designed.”
Therefore, these fire extinguishers may be used to extinguish fires, as designed. Once used, they will not be able to be recharged and you will have to find an alternative extinguishing agent. If the fire extinguisher is only partially discharged and contains more than a de minimis amount of halon, the fire extinguisher will have to be disposed of in accordance with 40 CFR 82.270(d), which states “no person shall dispose of halon-containing equipment except by sending it for halon recovery to a manufacturer operating in accordance with NFPA 10 and NFPA 12A standards, a fire equipment dealer operating in accordance with NFPA 10 and NFPA 12A standards or a recycler operating in accordance with NFPA 10 and NFPA 12A standards.” In the preamble to the 1998 Federal Register regulation publication, EPA defines “de minimis” as follows:
“Other types of halon-containing equipment, however, such as portable fire extinguishers and compressed gascylinders can be partially discharged. A determination of a de minimis release for these other types of equipment must be made on a case-by-case basis. At the present time, however, industry standard recycling equipment generally meets or exceeds a minimum recovery efficiency of 98%. Therefore a release from halon-containing equipment which contains less than 2% of its original installed charge could be currently considered a de minimis release of halon.”
Per 40 CFR 82.100 to 82.124, any container storing a Class I ODS must have a warning label indicating it contains an ODS. The label must state:
WARNING: Contains [or Manufactured with] (insert name of substance), a substance that harms public health and environment by destroying ozone in the upper atmosphere.
Please note: These comments consider only environmental requirements related to air emissions of halon, and do not consider any state or local fire codes, nor do they consider generally accepted fire protection standards.