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The Hidden Health Hazards of Smoke and Soot

You’ve suffered a fire, and finances aren’t looking so great… Your idea: Save a few bucks on fire restoration by handling some of the cleaning yourself. Good plan, right? Maybe not. Smoke and soot are more than a dirty little reminder of the disastrous fire that took its toll on your home.  

Smoke and soot are dangerous.

Leftover smoke and soot following a fire are more than just smelly and unsightly. Exposure during fire restoration efforts can adversely affect your health. Children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk when exposed to smoke and soot. Its effects have been known since the 18th century, when the British Parliament passed the Chimney Sweepers Act in response to its association with cancer - the first ever occupational health legislation.

What makes smoke and soot so dangerous?

When combustion occurs during a fire, not all materials burn cleanly, resulting in smoke and soot. These waste products - solids, liquids, and gases - may be composed of various chemicals which are harmful to your health. Today’s modern structures hold an array of chemicals not found in early homes, including plastics, foams, fabrics, carpets, wood products, synthetic fabrics, wool, and asbestos-containing materials, which could result in health hazards that make fire restoration a dangerous and difficult task.

How can I be exposed?

Exposure to smoke and soot during fire restoration may occur via the skin and eyes, inhalation, and ingestion. Because airborne soot particulate is invisible, you may unknowingly be affected. Once soot enters your blood stream, it can cause a wide array of serious health issues, including respiratory issues, shortness of breath, bronchitis, asthma, stroke, heart attack, cancer, and premature death. In infants, even short-term exposure to soot has been shown to have lifelong health consequences, permanently altering developing respiratory systems. 

What kind of toxic of materials can be found in smoke and soot during fire restoration?

  • Mesothelioma (cancer) causing asbestos fibers from building materials used in the 1950s-1980s.
  • Carbon materials can produce carbon monoxide, hydrogen, ammonia, nitrogen oxides, and tar.
  • PVC may create hydrogen chloride, phosgene, dioxin, chloromethane, bromomethane, and halocarbons.
  • Sulfur can form hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, and thiols that can cause residual smoke odor.
  • Partial oxidation of released hydrocarbons can yield formaldehyde, acrolein, furfural, ketones, alcohols, phenols, cresols, carboxylic acids, and more…
  • Even wood smoke released shares more than 100 chemicals also found in cigarette smoke.

Smoke and soot must be professionally addressed to ensure safe, successful fire restoration results.  

Unfortunately, safety risks from fire do not end once the flames are extinguished. Fire damage can linger for years unless properly addressed. Adequate safety equipment (respiratory, skin, and eye protection) are essential in reducing possible exposure to dangerous smoke and soot, and quite possibly water and mold related health issues resulting from firefighting efforts. Proper ventilation practices are also necessary to protect and restore indoor air quality following a fire, including HEPA filtration and adsorption (activated carbon) to preserve air quality. A bottle of degreaser and a dust mask are not enough! Professional tools, knowledge, and expertise are at the heart of a thorough and safe fire restoration.

Are you trying to save money at the expense of your health? Ditch the DIY fire restoration – contact Rainbow International® today!

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