August 15, 2023

Fire extinguishers are a necessary safety precaution in many businesses and homes. However, not all fire extinguishers are created equal.

Some of the chemicals used in fire extinguishers can be toxic to humans and the environment. This blog post will discuss 10 of the most harmful fire extinguisher chemicals you should avoid.

What are the Dangers of Fire Extinguisher Chemicals?

There are many dangers associated with fire extinguisher powder and chemicals. The most common risk is that these chemicals can be highly corrosive and cause skin and eye irritation and more respiratory severe effects to people with lung conditions like asthma.

In addition, they can also be toxic upon inhalation or ingestion. Therefore, if you are using a portable fire extinguisher, it is essential to wear proper protective gear such as rubber gloves and a dust mask to avoid the biggest dangers.

Another danger of dry chemical fire extinguishers is that they can be flammable. This means that if you use a fire extinguisher in an enclosed space, there is a risk of the substances igniting and causing a fire. This is why it is essential to use a fire extinguisher in well-ventilated areas.

Finally, a dry chemical fire extinguisher can also damage the environment. When a chemical residue is released into the air, it can pollute the air and water. This can harm plant and animal life.

Therefore, if you are using a fire extinguisher, it is essential to discharge it in a safe place where it will not cause harm to the environment.

Understanding the dangers of fire extinguisher chemicals can help keep yourself and others safe.

What are the Top 10 Toxic Chemicals from Fire Extinguishers?

Toxic Chemicals from Fire Extinguishers

There are a variety of fire extinguishers on the market, each with its unique chemical makeup. However, all fire extinguishers contain some level of toxicity. The following is a list of the top ten most toxic chemicals found in fire extinguishers:


Halon is a family of chemically related, artificial halocarbon refrigerants, fire suppressants, and solvents. It is used in fire extinguishers because it interrupts the chemical reaction of combustion. However, halon is released into the atmosphere and contributes to ozone depletion. Additionally, halon exposure can lead to serious health effects, including cancer.


HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbon) are often used in fire extinguishers as they do not deplete the ozone layer like other chemicals. However, HFCs are very potent greenhouse gases. For example, a single HFC-134a fire extinguisher can have the same global warming impact as a passenger car driven for more than three years. HFCs are also difficult to recycle and often end up in landfills where they can leak into the environment.


PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, is a synthetic fluorine-containing organic compound linked to various health problems. For example, it’s used in firefighting foams. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified PFOA as a likely human carcinogen. Exposure to PFOA can lead to developmental problems in fetuses and infants, liver damage, thyroid disease, and cancer.


PFOS is a highly fluorinated organic compound that has been used in firefighting foams for over 50 years. Although it is no longer manufactured in the United States, PFOS remains in the environment and can be found in food, drinking water, and human blood. Exposure to PFOS can cause developmental, liver damage, immune system effects, and hormone disruption.

Hydrofluoric acid

Hydrofluoric acid is just one of the many dangerous chemicals in a fire extinguisher. If you are exposed to this acid, it can irritate skin or can lead to further damage such as burns, muscle spasms, and respiratory problems. In extreme cases, it can even cause death.

Sodium Bicarbonate

Or also known as baking soda, it is a common ingredient in dry chemical fire extinguishers. While it is an effective fire extinguisher, it can also be dangerous to humans if inhaled. When sodium bicarbonate is released into the air, it can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. Inhaling large amounts of sodium bicarbonate can lead to coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, it can even cause death.

Potassium Bicarbonate

Potassium Bicarbonate is a chemical that is found in many portable fire extinguishers. When this chemical comes into contact with the skin, it can cause irritation and burns. In addition, inhaling this chemical’s fumes can also harm the lungs and throat.

Ammonium Phosphate

Ammonium phosphate is a severe health hazard when inhaled and can be fatal. The chemical reacts with water in the body to form hydrofluoric acid, which attacks the tissues and can cause death. Ammonium phosphate is also a skin and eye irritant. Exposure to this chemical includes coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

Monoammonium Phosphate

When mono ammonium phosphate enters the human body through inhalation, skin contact, or ingestion, Mono ammonium Phosphate can irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract. It can also cause gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, Monoammonium Phosphate can lead to convulsions and coma. Prolonged exposure to this multi-purpose dry chemical, used for dry chemical extinguishers to suppress class c fires, can also cause damage to the liver, kidney, and heart.

Carbon Dioxide

When inhaled, carbon dioxide can have harmful effects on the human body. High concentrations can lead to asphyxiation, which is when the body is deprived of oxygen and can no longer function properly. Carbon dioxide can also cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, stomach upset, and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, it can cause unconsciousness and death.

How Can You Protect Yourself From the Dangers?

There are a few general precautions to protect yourself from the dangers of toxic chemicals in fire extinguishers.

  1. Make sure that your extinguisher is adequately maintained and serviced.
  2. Don’t use an extinguisher if the situation isn’t safe.
  3. If you must use an extinguisher, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

These simple precautions can help keep yourself safe from the dangers of toxic chemicals in fire extinguishers.

What Should You Do if You are Exposed to Fire Extinguisher Chemicals?

There are a few things you need to do if you are exposed to chemical fire extinguishers:

  • First, get some fresh air immediately. Then remove any clothing that has come into direct contact with or any affected area with the fire extinguisher residue.
  • Then you should wash or do immediate rinsing to the affected areas of your skin with soap and either running or warm water for at least 15 minutes.
  • Finally, after this initial treatment, you should seek medical attention immediately if you have any symptoms, such as difficulty breathing or swelling.

Are there any long-term health risks associated with exposure?

Some health experts believe that potential risks could be associated with prolonged exposure, including cancer and other serious illnesses.

If you are concerned about your exposure to toxic chemicals from fire extinguishers, you must contact your doctor or a health expert to get more information.

How can you safely dispose of a fire extinguisher that is no longer working?

When a fire extinguisher is no longer working, or you need to clean a fire extinguisher residue, it must be cleaned and disposed of properly to ensure the safety of yourself and others.

  1. The first step is to remove the canister from the mounting bracket.
  2. Once the canister is removed, you must discharge any remaining pressure by depressing the lever or knob.
  3. After all of the pressure has been released, you can then proceed to remove the discharge hose.
  4. Once the hose has been removed, you can puncture the canister with a screwdriver or similar object.
  5. This will allow any remaining combustible material inside the canister to be expelled.
  6. Finally, you can dispose of the empty fire extinguisher in your regular trash bin.

By following these steps, you can safely and effectively dispose of a fire extinguisher that is no longer working.

By taking these precautions, you can help to prevent any accidents or injuries that could occur as a result of mishandling a fire extinguisher.

Alex Bradley

Written by

Alex Bradley

Multitasking guru who’s not just wrangling words as a witty blogger, but also juggling the roles of a husband, dad, and dutiful son to an age-defying parent. With a keyboard in one hand and a toolbox of tech gadgets in the other, Alex weaves playful blog posts that crack open the world of senior-friendly gizmos. Drawing inspiration from his family adventures and late-night “Eureka!” moments, his posts are your compass to navigate the realm of safety-enhancing and smile-inducing devices for the golden-aged generation.