Do you know that the smoke rising from fire can be just as dangerous as the fire itself? Read on to learn more.
If you were recently trapped in an enclosed space with fire, you may have been exposed to the rising soot and smoke. If that’s true, you may have suffered from smoke and soot inhalation. It’s important to know that the smoke released from any type of fire contains harmful chemicals and particles produced by incomplete burning of carbon-containing objects. Smoke comprises carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and soot.
Depending on the burning object, the temperature at which it’s burning, and the amount of oxygen present, the rising smoke may contain acid gases, nitrogen oxides, benzene, styrene, dioxins, metals, sulfur dioxide, and more. Let’s find out how these can be dangerous to your health:
Even if you inhale smoke and soot for a short time, you can’t protect yourself from the immediate effects. Its mere odor may prove nauseating, while the smoke can cause irritation in eyes, throat, and nose. In the case of heavy smoke, your lung function may decline, making it difficult to breathe. The two main culprits that cause the damage are carbon monoxide gas and 2.5 microns of particulate matter or soot.
Even when the exposure to smoke stops, the effects of inhaling fine particles and carbon monoxide may last for a couple of days.
Decrease in Oxygen Supply
The inhalation of carbon monoxide also obstructs the supply of oxygen in your body. This will reduce your alertness, cause headaches, and may even trigger angina, a heart condition that makes you vulnerable to heart attacks and other issues. Fine particles or particulate matter can travel deep into the respiratory tract and into the lungs.
Chronic Health Effects
Exposure to components of smoke is also associated with chronic health effects. Extensive exposure to fine particles of smoke has been linked to dramatic increases in cardiovascular diseases. Also, areas subject to air pollution with higher fine particulate matter have consistently reported higher mortality rates.
Long-term health effects also result from frequent exposure to smoke for short periods. Some studies comparing the health conditions of firefighters with those of similar male populations found an increased frequency of long-term chronic diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases and lung diseases, due to repeated smoke exposure.
Given the dangers explained above, it’s best to avoid smoky situations as much as possible to protect yourself from exposure. This is particularly recommended for those who are above 65 years of age or have underlying health conditions.
Use appropriate respiratory protection if it’s necessary to work in smoky settings. But be sure to understand the cautions and limitations of using a respirator before using one.
Besides health dangers, smoke can also undermine the structural integrity of your property.