Understanding Soot Damage
What is soot?
It is a combination of small carbon particles formed by the unstable combustion of coal, wood, oil, and other fossil fuel. The end result is an unsightly and smelly substance attached to surfaces after a fire. Soot is mainly made up of dust, soils, metals, and chemicals. Even if there was no fire at all, soot can still find its way around your home. This comes about through frequent candle use, poorly ventilated fireplaces, and furnaces that produce puff backs. Failure to contact reliable fire services soon enough can render soot a serious health risk to people with weakened immune systems.
Why is Soot Considered Dangerous?
During a fire, when combustion occurs, there are those materials that do not burn normally. This results in smoke and soot. Waste products of incomplete combustion (solids, liquids, and gases) are highly composed of different health hazards. Modern homes today feature a massive array of chemicals that were not present in early homes. The chemicals are present in:
- Wood products
- Asbestos-containing materials
- Synthetic fabrics
- Carpets, etc
The chemicals in the above items can lead to serious health hazards that render fire restoration efforts difficult and dangerous.
How Does One Get Exposed to Soot?
Soot exposure often occurs via ingestion, inhalation, or contact with the eyes and skin. Most of the time, you may not see the soot particulates as they are too tiny to be seen by the naked eye. The moment it becomes one with your bloodstream, soot can trigger life-threatening conditions. Some of them include cancer, heart attack, stroke, asthma, respiratory issues such as bronchitis, and at times, premature death. When infants are exposed to soot, the effects have been known to be lifelong and dangerous.
Toxic Materials Present in Soot during Fire Restoration
- When partially oxidated, hydrocarbons can yield carboxylic acids, cresols, phenols, alcohols, ketones, furfural, acrolein, formaldehyde, and so much more.
- PVC can create halocarbons, bromomethane, chloromethane, hydrogen chloride, halocarbons, dioxin, and phosgene.
- Wood smoke released into the air during combustion shares about 100 chemicals present in cigarette smoke.
- Sulfur forms sulfur dioxide, thiols, and hydrogen sulfide, which result in residual smoke odor.
- Asbestos fibers from building materials that were widely used during the 1950s-1980s period.
- Carbon materials produce tar, nitrogen oxides, ammonia, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide.
How to Deal With Smoke and Soot
Once the flames have been extinguished, the fire safety risks can stick around for years. To prevent this, ensure the soot problem is properly and professionally addressed. Rather than expose yourself to the harmful effects of soot, contact those with essential safety equipment. Such equipment shields their eyes, skin, and respiratory tracts. Safe and thorough fire restoration is only achieved through professional expertise, knowledge, and tools. One thing you should do after a fire is to maintain proper ventilation practices around your home. Preserve the air quality by carrying out adsorption of activated carbon as well as HEPA filtration.