Concern grows in US over toxic fire fighting chemicals

Some chemicals used to fight fires are known to be toxic to fish (image: Martin Auldist). 

EARLIER in the month we ran a story about how a chemical linked with the use of firefighting foam had been found in the Shoalhaven River, NSW, prompting the Environment Protection Authority to urge caution about the consumption of local fish.

A recent article from the News Deeply website show that concern about the use of fire retadant chemicals is also building in the USA in the light of studies showing that the toxins are deadly to fish and may cause permanent changes to plant communities.

According to the article, chemical fire retardants are considered a vital firefighting tool, helping to slow the spread of flames while ground crews move into position. Their use has grown significantly in recemt years, however, and the harmful side effects of these chemicals are coming under increasing scrutiny.

The chemicals, usually dropped from low-flying aircraft, largely consist of ammonia compounds, which are known toxins to fish and other aquatic life. Studies have shown retardants can kill fish, alter soil chemistry, feed harmful algae blooms and even encourage the spread of invasive plants. In particular, scientists have shown some fire-fighting chemicals killed Chniook salmon even when heavily diluted. Nevertheless there is little regulation of their use, and no safer alternatives on the market.

You can read the full story HERE.

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