Recent Analyses of Toxicity and Environmental Impacts of In-Car Motorsports Fire Extinguishing Systems 2004-01-3552
This paper discusses the implications of recent analyses of toxicity and environmental impacts of in-car fire extinguishing systems used in motorsports competition. Halon chemicals have been used for decades as the de facto choice for race car fire extinguisher systems (with some exceptions in some applications) due to its “clean” nature of not leaving residue, ability to “total flood” in cluttered compartments, its high performance and presumed low toxicity (although drivers have complained of ill effects after the discharge of such systems). It was determined to be a contributor to the destruction of Earth's ozone layer, and was stopped in production after 1993. Since that time, motorsports fire systems vendors have relied on using the once abundant but dwindling supply of recycled Halon available in the commercial sector, knowing that its use will eventually one day end. Attempts have been made to explore the use of other “clean”, total flooding alternatives, but their higher cost and lower performance have precluded their use to date. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, as a service to the SFI Foundation, performed a detailed engineering analysis of the use of motorsports in-car fire extinguishing systems as currently designed, with observations of their resultant health and occupational exposure issues for drivers, and comparison of current design standards and performance specification with accepted industrial standards. Their provocative results revealed significant toxicity concerns with the use of Halon systems as currently used, and provided recommendations on significant changes to the design and use of such systems, including the use of Halon alternatives. The results of their analysis, the validity of their assumptions used, other practical alternatives available and recommendations of prudent courses of action will be discussed.