Commercial Fire, Smoke & Soot: Health Risks

by | Oct 26, 2020 | Fire Damage, Fire Damage Repairs, Restoration | 0 comments

The impacts of commercial property fire can be devastating; the health vulnerabilities that it creates could be the major one.

Your business has suffered a fire and it’s not the right time in terms of finances, what would you do? Some businesses, especially smaller ones, for the sake of saving a few dollars, handle some fire damage restoration and cleaning tasks themselves. Little do they know that soot and smoke are more than a simple reminder of a fire, it has the potential to deteriorate the health of your employees’ overtime.

A commercial fire can present the employees with lost wages and involuntary unpaid leaves. Additionally, suffering any injury during a fire makes things further complicated and worse for them as they have to deal with some away time and hefty medical bills.

How to tell if the smoke and soot are affecting you?

A fire, mild or serious, often leaves smoke and soot. The fire debris is just not smelly and unsightly but can act as a slow poison, threatening the employee’s health.  Any individuals with a weakened immune system or at an elderly age are most at risk.

Keep an eye out for these symptoms to understand whether your health is at risk.

  • Burning or itchy eyes, trouble to breathe or coughing, or wheezing. These symptoms could be elevated for Individuals with a heart or lung condition.
  • If you have heart disease, keep an eye out for additional symptoms including palpitations, fatigue, and chest pain.
  • Individuals with lung disease experience disturbing and inconsistent breathing patterns. These people would find it difficult to breathe deeply along with other concerns like phlegm, coughing, and shortness of breath.

How does the smoke affect employee health?

The smoke released by burning materials including paper, drywall, and wood is a conglomerate of chemicals and particles. These are essentially partially burned carbon-infused materials that second the release of chemicals including benzene, aldehydes, and dioxins.

The concentration of these chemicals and the severity of the soot produced as a result depend on factors like the amount of oxygen available, the burning temperature, and the substance in the fire itself.

Exposure to the smoke and soot can trigger immediate acute reactions including itching eyes and irritating nose and throat. Inhaling heavy smoke for a prolonged duration can even alter the lung function making it difficult to breathe and triggering dizziness.

Carbon monoxide inhaled can reduce the oxygen supply and trigger a variety of concerns ranging from headaches to angina (a heart condition). The inhaled fine particles can find its way to respiratory tracts and the lungs triggering concerns including shortness of breath and even asthma. The symptoms can last a couple of days even after exposure.

Toxic materials in the smoke

The composition of the materials that suffer a fire determines the toxic materials triggered. For example, if your office is fairly old (built between the 1950s and 1980s), there is a chance that it has asbestos. Asbestos fibers when burnt can produce cancerous agents.

PVC material under fire is known to produce hydrogen chloride, dioxin, and halocarbons whereas any material containing sulfur can release sulfur dioxide and thiols, which has a pungent smell.

While carbon materials under fire could produce ammonia and tar, the wooden materials can release up to 100 toxic materials that match with a cigarette smoke

Commercial fire can always be detrimental irrespective of whether you view it from a financial or manpower perspective. The severity of fire damage impact can force the business to make some drastic changes to the business structure after a considerable amount of time like making people redundant. This is usually done when the business finds it difficult to make up for the loss suffered due to fire. Considering all these, it is ideal to approach a certified fire damage restoration process when you have suffered a fire as the initial investment would definitely be worth it.


Submit a Comment