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F.A.Q. Fire Extinguishers

The MCMUA operates one of NJ's most comprehensive household hazardous waste (HHW) programs. This F.A.Q. page and information on hazardous materials is intended as a guide about HHW materials as well as the MCMUA's HHW program. This information is a general guide and does not constitute official rule, regulation or law.

Hazards

  • Contents are under pressure and may explode when combined with other materials.
  • Very old fire extinguishers may contain carbon tetrachloride, a known carcinogen.
     

Handling

  • Two most common types include "dry chemical" (sodium bicarbonate or monoammonium phosphate) and carbon dioxide (CO2) both of which are not hazardous.
  • To empty contents, discharge outside, away from children or pets. Monoammonium phosphate is an irritant to eyes and the respiratory tract. Wear goggles and particulate mask when discharging extinguisher.
     

Management Options

  • Dry chemical extinguishers
    • May be discharged in an area where an acidic fertilizer would be used such as around evergreens. Do not use on lawns.
    • When relieving the pressure (emptying) the container for disposal, review manufacturers’ instructions, or, if unavailable, use the PASS technique
    • Pull the pin: this unlocks the operating lever and allows you to discharge the extinguisher. Some extinguishers may have other seals or tamper indicators.
    • Aim low: Point the extinguisher nozzle (or hose) at the base of the item.
    • Squeeze the lever above the handle: this discharges the extinguishing agent. Releasing the lever will stop the discharge. (Some extinguishers have a button instead of a lever.)
    • Sweep from side to side.
    • After pressure has been relieved (when nothing else comes out) remove the head from the container and place it with scrap metal or in the trash.
       
  • Carbon dioxide extinguishers
    • These extinguishers are refillable and should be refilled after each use. Check Yellow Pages under Fire Extinguishers – Recharging.
    • If the extinguisher becomes defective, drill holes in the cylinder after pressure has been relieved and then place in the trash.
    • Ask fire equipment companies in your area if they will accept used extinguishers (listed in the Yellow Pages).
       
  • Very old fire extinguishers
    • Consult fire department.
    • Take to HHW collection or commercial hazardous waste facility.