Halons are fire fighting agents that were introduced into Australia in the early 1970s. They quickly replaced many previously accepted fire fighting products because of their superior fire fighting characteristics and ease of use.
Halons are fully halogenated chemicals that have relatively long lifetimes in the atmosphere. They are broken down in the stratosphere releasing reactive bromine that is extremely damaging to ozone. Reactions involving bromine are estimated to be responsible for 25 per cent of the chemical destruction of ozone over Antarctica and 50 per cent over the Arctic. The ozone depleting potential of halons is 10 times greater than that of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). As such, halons are a very aggressive ozone depleting chemical. One kilogram of halon 1211 can destroy 50 tonnes of ozone.
Australia continues to be a world leader in the phase out of ozone depleting substances and has made significant advances in the responsible management and phase out of halon in Australia.
Australia stopped importing halons at the end of 1992. New halon is no longer available in Australia. Under State and Territory legislation, the continued use of halon in nonessential equipment was banned in most jurisdictions from December 1995. Changes made in 2003 to the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 and its supporting regulations mean that this ban now exists under national legislation.
Australia's success with halon phase out meant that stocks of halon were rapidly accumulating within government, business and the community from the decommissioning of halon fire fighting systems and portable equipment. In 1993, the Australian Government established the National Halon Bank (NHB) to store decommissioned halon for destruction or reclamation to meet essential uses until an alternative was found for all current uses.