Halon fire extinguishers are now illegal in the UK, due to the damaging effect the fire extinguishing agent has on the Earth’s ozone layer. There are only three main exceptions to this rule; Halon fire extinguishers can be used in aircraft, for military use, and in the Channel Tunnel.
Although most halon fire extinguishers are painted green or red with a green area at the top of the label, to confuse matters, British Rail had theirs painted yellow and Nu-swift made their outer container gold with a yellow inner.
How Halon Fire Extinguishers Work
Halon 1211 (pronounced twelve-eleven and) fire extinguishers contain a gas that stops the chemical reaction when fuels ignite and burn. It was a popular extinguisher for use in protecting delicate electrical equipment such as computers, as the gas simply vapourised and left no messy residue, unlike dry powder extinguishers.
In the UK, ICI was a huge manufacturer and their version was called BCF which was short for the chemical name of bromochluorodifluoromethane.
However, it was later discovered that Halon 1211 was one of the most effective ozone-depletion chemical in common use, and the substance was banned by international treaty in 1993.
Halon Fixed Fire Extinguishing Systems
Halon 1301 (pronounced thirteen-Oh-one) was used as the fire-extinguishing agent in some fixed fire protection systems, and this too was made illegal in 1999. All Halon-based protection systems and portable fire extinguishers were required to be decommissioned by 31 December 2003.
Have You Any Halon Fire Extinguishers?
Halon extinguishers are normally in green cylinders, so if you have one, you’ll spot it immediately. If you have any Halon extinguishers in your premises, you must dispose of them as soon as possible. It is illegal to simply throw away Halon fire extinguishers, or worse, discharge them into the atmosphere.
Your local Civic Amenity site (Aka council tip) will usually accept your old Halon fire extinguishers for free, or take them to an authorised disposal agent for safe decommissioning and disposal. There is a list of approved companies at the Halon Users National Consortium (HUNC) website; http://www.hunc.org.
Replacing Your Halon Fire Extinguishers
Always replace any existing Halon fire extinguisher that you discover with another suitable type such as a CO2 or clean agent extinguisher, so as not to leave gaps in your all-important fire safety equipment.
There have been advances in clean agent fire fighting gases but none are as effective as halon and the price means that portable versions are rare in the UK. They will be mostly found in automatic extinguishers and systems.