Is that pesky smoke odor just annoying or is it a red flag?

By September 6, 2019Fire

The human body is truly amazing. When we experience a house fire the average human nose has millions of sensory neurons and that fire triggers those olfactory nerves which trigger the area of our brain that sets off emotional reactions. Our body has an alert and response system. The neurons in our nose remember smells and our emotional reactions to them, so even when a house fire appears to be out our noses can sense any lingering unseen flame or coals that still have a spark.

What causes the odor?

When we continue to smell smoke after the fire is out, what we smell are minuscule particles of incomplete combustion (PIC) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). To give you a visual of these small particles, the larger, visible fragments are called “soot.” The majority of these PIC and VOC fragments, however, or less than ten microns in diameter. To give you a reference for that measurement, picture a dime. Ten microns is 1/1,000 the thickness of a dime.

Other than carbon particles, what else can be in the soot?

 It depends on what was burned in the fire. Wood from the house’s walls and furniture release carbon dioxide. Exposure to Carbon Dioxide (CO2) causes a multitude of health detriments like headaches, difficulty breathing, asphyxia and that pins or needles feeling.

When plastic is burned, it releases chemicals like hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, dioxins, furans, and other heavy metals. These kinds of emissions can cause respiratory ailments, they stress human immune systems, and they are potentially carcinogenic. 

Our clothes and other fabrics in our homes are often covered in chemicals such as formaldehyde. Formaldehyde can irritate your skin and other body parts like the eyes, nose, and throat.

 Depending on what is in your house during the fire, there might be other particles floating around as soot but these are some of the common ones. 

What steps need to be taken to completely remove the smoke odor?

1.   Removing the Source

The first step, and arguably the most important one, is to remove the source. This means removing any charred/burnt items including drywall. 

2.   Detailed cleaning of all salvageable items

3.   Cleaning the Air Ducts

Next, you need to clean out all of the air ducts within your home or business. Dust carries these particles and odors so cleaning your HVAC system early on in the restoration process is important. 

4.   Removing Airborne Odor 

Since the VOC’s and PIC’s creating the smoke odor remain airborne, the next task is removing them from the air.

Our teams of professional restoration technicians are here for you in the case of a house fire. Please call us to help you start getting your life back together and to clean up any fire damage, to effect any smoke remediation that is needed, and for smoke odor removal. We are here for your property restoration needs

 

Alan Seegrist

Author Alan Seegrist

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