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article imageU.S. considering curbing aerial fire retardant use

To reduce environmental harm from toxic fire retardants, the U.S. Forest Service is planning to cut drops on or near waterways, and expand off-limits areas by the end of the year. But these first changes may not reduce the overall use of the chemicals.
The U.S. Forest Service announced the release of a draft environmental impact statement on the use of fire retardants, available online, and a 45-day public comment period that began May 13, to help the agency decide on limits for the aerial application of the chemicals.
An earlier USDA environmental assessment lists as fire retardant ingredients: inorganic fertilizers (ammonia sulfate or ammonia polyphosphates), thickeners (attupulgite clay and guar gum), dyes and corrosion inhibitors. The document states the mix is 85 percent water.
According to the U.S. Forest Service announcement:
Managing wildfires is usually done without using fire retardants, and between 2000 and 2010, they were only used on 8.5 percent of fires in the National Forest System, with only one of every 5,000 drops on government-managed lands made over waterways during the last decade.
Since 2000, aerial retardant drops by federal agencies have followed Guidelines for Aerial Delivery of Retardant or Foam Near Waterways, and in 2008 implemented additional precautions that were recommended by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to avoid impacts to listed endangered species.
Aerially applied fire retardant effectively supports wildfire suppression efforts on the ground and reduces a fire's intensity and rate of spread when the method is used appropriately, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell claimed in the written statement.
But the LA Times reported:
Fire retardant drops have increased over the last 30 years, especially in California. Also, millions of gallons of the chemicals are dropped mostly for political show, even when high winds would keep them from working.
The proposed limits and draft environmental impact statement were forced by court decisions stemming from lawsuits by organizations, the latest in July 2010 by a U.S. District Court in Montana, ordering federal agencies to reconsider how to minimize harm to endangered species from immediate and lingering environmental effects of fire retardant chemicals.
The Forest Service does not expect the new limits to reduce fire retardant use overall, but will eliminate most drops on or near waterways and expand off-limits acreage.
According to ScienceDaily, a variety of flame retardants are used for diverse purposes and are already having a widespread impact on life in general, besides proving harmful to aquatic life:
Scientists have linked flame retardant chemicals to reduced fertility and have detected them in peregrine falcon eggs, pet dogs, butter and baby food.
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