Hidden Hazards of Fire Damage Residue

by | Sep 20, 2021 | Fire Damage, Fire Damage Repairs | 0 comments

Residential or commercial fire is a menace in many ways. To recover financially could be the biggest challenge. Most people would stick to DIY fire damage restoration or smoke damage cleanup when finances aren’t looking great.

DIY smoke damage cleanup saves some valuable bucks, but is it worth it? Suppose you are aware of the hidden hazards of smoke and soot from residential or commercial fire. In that case, you will disagree with any DIY smoke restoration tips, especially the ones customized to handle major fire damages.

This piece of content highlights the hidden hazards of fire damage residue, especially smoke and soot.

What is smoke?

Smoke is a byproduct of fire that constitutes airborne particles in the form of gases, solid and liquid caused by the incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials. Any material undergoing combustion emits smoke that could contain different varieties of chemicals and fumes.

How dangerous is smoke?

Smoke from structure fires releases toxic chemicals and gases. Structural fires usually involve the uncontrolled burning of an array of particles such as foams, plastics, rugs, and paint. Even though smoke constitutes both visible and nonvisible particles, the visual or the microscopic particles trigger health problems. Such tiny particles easily penetrate through to the lungs to trigger different health problems ranging from lung disease to angina (heart condition)

What is soot?

Soot deep black powdery substance released from the incomplete combustion of materials that contain carbon (wood, oil, carpets). Soot carries fine particles, including acid, gases, chemicals, soil, and dust. Soot from a fire leaves a mess that is difficult to clean, considering the effort needed and its toxic nature. Soot usually leaves a strong foul odor.

How dangerous is soot?

As an airborne contaminant, soot can cause serious health problems, including lung cancer, influenza, asthma, and acute vascular dysfunction. Soot, the byproducts of incomplete combustion, is known to have acidic properties. Soot spreads across the rooms and attaches to different surfaces during a property fire. The acidic property of soot causes further damage in a quick time.

Soot can also form other fire sources such as chimneys, candles, and fireplaces. Ensure that any rooms with chimneys and fireplaces are well ventilated to prevent the spread of soot or invisible particles.

Toxic chemicals & gases

The major share of gases and chemicals from a property fire is:

  • Carbon monoxide
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Hydrogen cyanide
  • Ammonia
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Hydrogen sulfide
  • Acids and oxides of nitrogen

In addition to the above, smoke also carries the following toxic gases:


American Cancer Society classifies Benzene as a carcinogen. Being a byproduct of incomplete combustion, short-term effects of inhaling benzene can cause symptoms such as drowsiness, dizziness, irregular heartbeat. The long-term effects of inhaling benzene are anemia, low blood pallet count, and fall in white blood cells. Based on evidence from studies conducted in people and animals, benzene is linked to myeloid leukemia.


Mercury is a toxic chemical that can trigger significant health problems. As a byproduct of fire and smoke, Mercury is in its vapor form, which is the most deadly form. Vaporized mercury quickly infiltrates different organs in the human body, including the brain, kidney, and lungs.

Infants are more vulnerable to mercury poisoning; mercury can even pass from the mother to an infant via breastfeeding.  Some symptoms of inhaling mercury in the vapor form include dizziness, memory loss, tremors.


Phosgene is another hidden hazard of property fire and smoke that causes blurry vision, coughing, vomiting, shortness of breath, itchy throat, and eyes. Some symptoms of inhaling phosgene such as vomiting, shortness of breath, heart failure may take up to 48 hours to trigger.

Hydrogen Chloride

Brief exposure to hydrogen chloride in smoke causes breathing difficulty and throat irritations. Major exposure causes changes in skin color (usually blue coloration), inflammation of the lungs, and even death.

A property fire is not always preventable; unfortunately, killing the fire does not guarantee your safety. The hidden hazards are highlighted here can make your life a nightmare, and you might not even realize this until it’s too late. Exposure to toxic particulates in smoke can cause major health concerns in human beings, including damage to DNA. Sealing off the smoke-affected area and deodorizers does not eliminate or capture the airborne particles or particles in the soot. Proper remediation by a certified fire damage specialist before the residents return to the property is indispensable.


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