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The documented hazards of fire soot date back to 1775 when Percivall Pott, an English surgeon, discovered an association between exposure to soot and a high incidence of scrotal cancer in chimney sweeps. This was the first occupational link to cancer, which ultimately led to the science of epidemiology and the Chimney Sweeper’s Act of 1788. Exposure to soot may not be an obvious health hazard to homeowner recovering from a house fire but your health could suffer if the residue is not properly cleaned.
What is soot?
Smoke is a complex mixture of different gases and particles, which results from the various materials that burn during a fire event. Soot is the result of incomplete combustion, producing tiny particles of carbon in the air. It is more complicated than “just smoky dirt.” Put simply, the particle size of smoke residue on a surface can present a respiratory hazard.
Even when the fire is out, damage continues
According to the National Fire Protection Association, the synthetic materials commonplace in today’s homes produce especially dangerous substances. As a fire grows inside a building, it will often consume most of the available oxygen, and slow the burning process. This “incomplete combustion” results in toxic gases.
Smoke and deposited soot create components that can each be lethal in their own ways. Unburned, partially burned, and completely burned substances can be so small they penetrate the respiratory system’s protective filters and lodge in the lungs. Some of the particulates are actively toxic; others are irritating to the eyes and digestive system.
How Can You Protect Yourself?
Research by American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works offers some advice to protect yourself from the potential hazards associated with working soot-contaminated items in fire disaster situations:
It is important to note that soot is not simply a form of grime that needs to be rinsed from an article. Soot can be a respiratory or skin irritant, and there may be chemicals or metals riding on the soot particles that are small enough to enter into your lungs. Be respectful of what chemical constituents can be represented in fire soot and take the time to wear personal protective gear.
The professionals of ServiceMaster Restoration by Century are experts in understanding the chemical combinations that can effectively clean and salvage belongings. They can even remove soot from at-risk items such as brass, aluminum, chrome, marble, tile, and porcelain as well as fabrics in upholstery and carpets, thus helping to protect your health and home. Contact them in The Woodlands at (832) 925-3468.