Better understanding the risks associated with smoke & soot

In the restoration and decontamination industry, a lot of importance is placed on sampling, laboratory analysis and the reduction of volatile particulate matter like asbestos, lead, mould, mildew, bacteria and all other sources of biological hazards. If these contaminants are disturbed or treated in an inappropriate manner, it can cause all kinds of material damage as well as seriously harm the health and wellness of those who live or work in or near the areas where they’re present. There are other toxins that are released into the air during restoration products that seem to go un-noticed, but are no less dangerous. They are the toxic fume particles and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are produced during structural fires.

What is smoke?

Smoke is a complex mix of toxic gases and particles that are created by the mix of materials that burn during a fire. A typical structural fire can literally create tens of thousands of toxic chemicals and fumes. Research on cigarette smoke alone has identified over 7,000 chemicals, 70 of which are known to cause cancer, but studies have only scratched the surface of all the potentially harmful health effects that can result from being exposed to the chemicals that are released into the atmosphere during a structural fire.

What are the risks associated with exposure to smoke?

Smoke is the result of incomplete combustion, which produces tiny particles of carbon in the air. Once these particles fall, they become soot, so it’s the size of the smoke residue particles that makes them a respiratory risk. Soot particles measure around 2.5 microns or less, meaning they can be breathed deep into the lungs. To offer a better perspective on their size, red blood cells measure around 7 microns and the dust you see floating in the air through a sunlit window measures around 40 microns. Airborne soot is basically impossible to see, making it easy to inhale.

Anybody inhaling smoke needs to understand the potential health risks and take the necessary precautions to protect their health and safety. People who have their effects or property damaged by fire or smoke also need to be aware of the health risks to which they may be exposed long after the restoration process is finished, if adequate remedial measures aren’t taken. That’s why it’s so important to use professionals who use the right cleaning methods.