Member's Area - Login/Register

Effects of wildfire suppression chemicals on people and the environment

Paper Topic: 

Pages :
129 - 137

Kalabokidis K.D.
Paper ID: 
Paper Status: 

Fire agencies worldwide apply millions of gallons of fire suppression chemicals on a broad array of
ecosystems. These chemicals are considered to have minimal effects on the health of people who might
be exposed to them. Only incidents of skin and eye irritation have been reported as a result of prolonged
fire retardant and firefighting foam contact. Fire suppression chemicals have minor toxicological
or ecological effects and, as a result, do not generally harm terrestrial ecosystems. Major impacts,
suppression chemicals have on the environment, may be through the adverse effects on water quality,
and subsequently to aquatic ecosystems. Retardants may encourage eutrophication and, in some cases,
contribute to fish kill when applied on watersheds, or if accidentally applied directly to water bodies.
Foams are generally more toxic than retardants to aquatic biota, but they are applied in much smaller
quantities. Application of retardants increases the total amount of smoke and airborne particulate produced,
but air quality implications are minimal since additional smoke emission by the retardant is
insignificant compared to the major output by the wildfire. Recommendations are offered for mitigation
of potential human health and environmental impacts from the use of fire suppression chemicals,
nevertheless, risks must be assessed on a site-by-site basis.

Fire retardants, firefighting foams, environmental pollution, risk assessment