March 31, 2000Karen Terrill
CDF Joins Federal Agencies in Banning Use of Certain Fire Retardant Products
SACRAMENTO - The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) has suspended use of certain fire retardant chemicals which have been shown to release unacceptable levels of cyanide into the environment.
The CDF purchases its retardant from the USDA Forest Service. The Forest Service announced this week the results of a new study ("The Effects of UVB Radiation on the Toxicity of Fire Fighting Chemicals") which identified a particular type of retardant that poses a threat to aquatic wildlife under certain conditions.
The retardant, produced and distributed by FIRE-TROL Holdings, L.L.C., includes a corrosion inhibitor (to protect airplane tanks) which when combined with the colorant in the retardant and exposed to sunlight and water, creates ferrous cyanide as a by-product. The new information indicates that when this particular fire retardant is accidentally dropped into surface water, the level of cyanide that results could be in violation of EPA standards.
"When the U.S. Forest Service informed us of the extent to which cyanide is present in this product, we took immediate action to stop any further use of this product," said Jim Wright, Assistant Deputy Director for Fire Protection. "Because CDF avoids dropping retardant in or around water, chance of any harmful impact are slight".
The CDF is currently exploring other sources for retardant supplies for the coming fire season.
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