Smoke Damage Is Harmful To Your Property And Health…
The most commonly downplayed effects of fires in homes and business establishments is in the general health condition of the people who come in contact with the remnants of the fiery event. Not only is there damage and destruction to property and valuable belongings, the person who comes in contact with smoke and fumes from a burned structure is greatly predisposed to developing a variety of health problems. Although these health problems may not be immediately seen nor felt, in due time and with the interplay of other aggravating factors such as the person’s diet, immune system functioning, and overall skin integrity, clinical manifestations will present. By this time, any preventive measures will be for naught and treatment modalities will be a costly affair to begin with.
It is almost always possible that small fires can occur right in the very confines of our homes brought about by any of, but not limited to, the following causes: a left open gas stove, leaking gas or fuel hoses, embers from cigars and cigarettes, and overheating appliances, among others. What makes smoke damage cleanup an intimidating task is that smoke and soot can move and penetrate into other rooms or areas of the house while from fires can greatly affect the paint of walls, furniture, and fixtures, carpet, upholstery, drapes, clothing, and other family articles which further adds to the extent of the damage.
Smoke damages the very complex structural network of fibers that strengthens and or solidifies a certain object by chemically reacting with the different molecules that make up the structure. What happens is that the molecular and chemical bonds between the various elements and molecules are broken down into component parts, rendering them unstable in the outside environment. Sometimes, smoke damaged articles still retain a certain amount of heat such that the burning process continues to damage and or weaken the structure and form of the article affected.
Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs are composed of over 100 different chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of combustible materials and other organic substances. In controlled laboratory experiments, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were shown to produce fertility problems among laboratory mice. The offspring of the lab mice also showed significantly greater rates of birth defects and low birth weights.
The same studies also revealed that some analogs of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons caused skin problems, body fluid abnormalities, and immune system defects among laboratory specimens. However, the implications are not readily generalizable to the human population because of ethics in research on human subjects.
Whether or not soot has really carcinogenic, mutagenic, and or even teratogenic effects on humans, it is relatively safe to assume that this byproduct of smoke from fires is something that should not be taken very lightly.
The Anatomy of Fire and Smoke
Fire occurs because of three fundamental elements that include air or oxygen, fuel or energy, and heat. Removing any of these elements and you can never start a fire, not even an ember. So, to start a fire, a highly combustible material must get in contact oxygen in the atmosphere to initiate a series of chemical reaction that, upon the application or introduction of the third element which is heat, fire is produced. Now, so long as there is a ready supply of combustible material vis-à-vis fuel load and a steady presence of oxygen in the atmosphere fire continue to exist because as oxygen and the combustible material react, they tend to give off heat, raising the heat element some more and fueling the fiery process in a vicious cycle.
In the birth of a fire, a heating element such as a match, a lighted candle, an electrical spark, or even friction, heats the combustible fuel load to very high temperatures, well within what is known as the material’s ignition temperature. By the time the combustible materials reaches around 150o Celsius (or 300o Fahrenheit), the heat already begins decomposing some of the cellulose that is found in the fuel load. The resulting chemical reaction releases unstable and explosive gases into the air which form what we see and are known to us as smoke. Smoke is primarily composed of oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon molecules. The materials that remain after the volatile gases have been released into the air as smoke make up the hardly recognizable char, as in “charcoal” which is made up of almost pure carbon. The combustible material which is left unburned or not turned into gas is called the ash and includes minerals such as calcium, potassium, chlorine, magnesium, and others. As such, charcoal fire can burn without the smoke as we usually use in our weekend barbecue activities.
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