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Smoke and Soot Are More Dangerous Than You May Think

If you’ve experienced a fire in your South Carolina home or business, you may be tempted to rush back into the building once the flames are extinguished to determine the amount of damage to the structure, your belongings, or inventory. But the experts know from personal experience that this could be harmful to your health.

Smoke and Soot Are More Dangerous

A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health has found that firefighters have higher rates of cancer than the general population due to exposure to smoke and toxic soot because many did not wear the proper gear. In fact, The International Association of Firefighters says cancer is now the leading cause of death among firefighters.

“It was never really something we thought about when I first started 32 years ago. It was a badge of honor to come out with all your gear dirty,” said Peter Silva Jr., a former firefighter. “If you didn’t wear your mask in there you were a strong, aggressive firefighter, and if you went in with your mask on, you were kind of ridiculed at times.”

So, having a cavalier attitude about wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) has resulted in the illness of many firefighters. Since it’s doubtful that you own any specialized PPE, you too could be in danger from the aftereffects of a fire.

But why is exposure to smoke and soot dangerous? Because the following are toxic substances that can be produced when certain materials burn. These can remain within soot after a fire:

  • Mesothelioma (cancer) causing asbestos fibers from building materials
  • Carbon materials can produce carbon monoxide, ammonia, and nitrogen oxides
  • PVC can create hydrogen chloride, phosgene (used as a chemical weapon during World War I), dioxin, Refrigerant-40, bromomethane (a pesticide), etc.
  • Hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide (poisonous gasses)
  • Petroleum-based items can produce formaldehyde, acrolein, furfural, cresols, and other harmful chemicals
  • Even wood smoke releases more than 100 chemicals also found in cigarette smoke.

Because of these dangers, incident commanders are now ordering firefighters to keep their masks on until they’re away from the smoke and soot and washed down by decontamination teams on the scene. Once back at the station, they’re being told to change into a second set of turnout gear while industrial washing machines clean the dirty outfits.

If fire professionals take this issue seriously, shouldn’t you? The advice of retired Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn is priceless. He says, “I’ve buried way too many friends over my 33 years. Too many friends … so I tell them, ‘Think about your wife, your husband, your boyfriend, your girlfriend before you take that mask off your face.”

Because of these dangers, only Columbia fire restoration experts like those at Kingsley Water Damage Restoration should be in charge of cleaning up after a fire. We have the experience, knowledge, equipment, and PPE needed to safely and thoroughly clean your South Carolina home or business of any fire damage.