House fires are terrifying because the flames can cause intense bodily harm that results in serious injury and even death. Once the fire is put out, many homeowners are relieved in the sense that the threat to their life or health has ended. However, the flames themselves are not the only potential source of health issues. Many of the byproducts of a fire are toxic. Fires leave behind smoke, soot, corrosive byproducts, and even mold that negatively affects your health. It is important to know the health risks caused by the byproducts of a fire to keep yourself and your family safe in the aftermath.
All fires involve smoke and everyone knows that smoke inhalation is extremely dangerous because of the chemicals it contains. Smoke is the byproduct of incomplete combustion and contains the following toxins:
Carbon Monoxide (CO) and Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN): The potential health effects of carbon monoxide are well known as many homes have carbon monoxide detectors for safety. Less people know about the risks of the other major chemical in smoke, hydrogen cyanide. Hydrogen cyanide is over 30 times more toxic than carbon monoxide and inhaling a combination of both can be deadly. Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of fire related deaths.
Chemicals from Burnt Materials: When materials such as wood, drywall, and flooring are burned in a fire, they release hundreds of chemicals in the smoke that are harmful to your health. Some of the dangerous chemicals released by burning household materials include hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen chloride, carboxylic acids, nitrogen oxides, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, and much more.
After the fire and smoke have cleared, there is still a substance present that can spread throughout the home and cause health issues as well as property damage; soot. Soot is dangerous because it spreads and settles everywhere including the air ducts where it can get redistributed into the air. Most health problems caused by soot result from inhalation but soot can also get absorbed in the skin and eyes. The main health effects from soot include lung irritation and respiratory issues such as bronchitis and asthma as well as more serious issues including heart attack, stroke, and even cancer.
Few people associate mold growth with house fires but if a house fire is extinguished with water, this excess moisture can quickly lead to mold growth. Moisture is the main cause of mold growth and organic materials that are wet from putting out the fire can become contaminated with mold within 48 hours. Mold not only adds to the health risks already present after a fire, but also causes even more property damage that makes the restoration process longer and more expensive.
If a fire breaks out in your home, make sure that everyone evacuates safely and do not return to your home until it has been restored and deemed safe. The byproducts of a fire are just as dangerous as the fire itself and can cause serious health effects long after the fire has been put out. It is of extreme importance to begin the fire damage restoration as soon as possible by hiring professionals that can safely remove dangerous byproducts from soot and smoke. These professionals have effective cleaning products and personal protective equipment to keep themselves safe during the restoration process
Expert in emergency fire and water restoration services, fire cleanup and water damage cleanup, mold removal, as well as carpet and upholstery cleaning services. Contributor to several restoration and cleaning blogs.
Did you know that, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25 million Americans, including roughly seven million children, have asthma? It’s true, and those numbers have steadily risen in recent years.
Asthma is more than occasional wheezing or feeling out of breath during physical activity. Asthma is chronic and can lead to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, fast breathing, and chest tightness, states the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. In the 21st century, people spend significant time indoors at home, school or work, and indoor air environments could be triggers for asthma. Improving indoor air quality can help people breathe clearly. The AAFA notes that the following agents can adversely affect indoor air quality, potentially triggering asthma attacks.
Allergens such as mold, dust mites, pet dander and fur, and waste from insects or rodents thrive in many homes. Ensuring indoor air quality is high can cut back on the amount of allergens in the air. People with asthma can invest in an air purifier and vacuum regularly, being sure to use a HEPA-equipped appliance. Routinely replacing HVAC system filters can help prevent allergens from blowing around the house. Also, frequent maintenance of HVAC systems will ensure they are operating safely and not contributing to poor indoor air quality.
Mold can be mitigated by reducing moisture in a home. Moist environments in the kitchen and bathroom may promote mold growth. Ventilation is key to keep mold at bay.
Thirdhand smoke, or THS, may be unfamiliar to many people. A 2011 report published in Environmental Health Perspectives says THS is an invisible combination of gases and particles that can cling to clothing, cushions, carpeting, and other materials long after secondhand smoke has cleared from a room. Studies have indicated that residual nicotine levels can be found in house dust where people smoke or once smoked. Studies have indicated that smoke compounds can adsorb onto surfaces and then desorb back into air over time.
Keeping tobacco smoke out of a home can improve indoor air quality and personal health.
Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are gases released from commonly used products. These can include paints and varnishes, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, new furniture, and new carpet. People with asthma may find that VOCs can trigger attacks. Airing out items, reducing usage of products that are heavily scented and choosing low- or no-VOC products can help. Making cleaning products from baking soda, vinegar and liquid oil soap also can keep indoor air quality high.
Homeowners who plan to renovate their homes can consider using the appropriate specifications for HVAC systems to promote good indoor air, as well as address any other potential problems that may be compromising indoor air quality.
*Additional attendee registration is open to employees within the same company.
Pre-conference Workshops will be held on January 13, 2019.
“Cannabis! Fentanyl! Methampetamine! Oh My” Presented by Susan Kimball and Coreen Robbins
1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
“Novel and Traditional Microbiological Methods for Common Indoor Microbial Investigations” Presented by Wei Tang
8:30 am – 12:30 pm
“Infection Prevention Considerations in Healthcare Design, Construction, and Maintenance” Presented by JJ Jenkins
8:30 am – 5:00 pm
“Indoor Air Quality Monitoring – A New Toolkit for the 21st Century” Presented by Louie Chang
8:30 am – 12:30 pm
Daily Conference Registration
Access to the full day’s technical sessions
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Eligibility for Continuing Education Credits
Admission to the AHR Expo, the world’s largest HVACR expo
Monday, January 14, 2019 ONLY
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 ONLY
Wednesday, January 16, 2019 ONLY
Spouse registration can only be purchased with a full three-day registration package. Spouses are not allowed entry into the IAQA Technical Program. This additional fee includes admission to:
AHR Expo (January 14 – 16)
Conference Lunch (January 14)
Welcome Reception (January 13)
Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony (January 14)
CANCELLATION POLICY: Cancellation requests must be sent in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 14, 2019. Cancellations are subject to a $75 per person service fee that will be deducted from your refund. Refunds are not available after January 14, 2019, under any circumstances, but substitute attendees will be accepted.
Indoor air quality is important to government agencies, schools, businesses, building staff, and occupants because it can impact both positively and negatively the health, comfort, well being, and productivity of building occupants.
Studies have shown that the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi in and around a building serves as a source of indoor bio-pollutant. World Health Organization (WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality, 2009) concluded
that the most important effect is increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms, allergies and asthma, as well as perturbation of the immunological systems. According to the report building dampness (supporting factor for microbial growth in buildings) varies widely from country to country and climatic zone. Dampness is estimated to affect 10-50% of all indoor environments in North America, Australia, Europe, India, and Japan.
According to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) most Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors and many spend most of their working hours in an office environment. Environmental studies conducted by the independent scientific groups, EPA and others have shown that indoor air pollutants levels are greater than levels found outside.
What are some types of indoor air pollutants that may affect my building?
Biological contaminants: the biological contaminants can consist of bacteria, viruses, fungi (mold), dust mite allergen, animal dander, insect biodetritus, fibers and fiberglass, pollen, cockroach allergen, etc… and may result from inadequate maintenance and housekeeping, water spills, inadequate humidity control, condensation, or may be brought into the building by occupants, infiltration, or ventilation air. Allergic responses to indoor biological pollutant exposures cause symptoms in allergic individuals and also play a key role in triggering asthma episodes for an estimated 15 million Americans.
Chemical pollutants: Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemicals. VOCs are numerous, varied, and ubiquitous. They include both human-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds. Chemical pollutants can include tobacco smoke, emissions from products used in the building (e.g., office equipment; furniture, wall and floor coverings e.g. formaldehyde; and cleaning and consumer products) accidental spill of chemicals, and gases such as carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, which are products of combustion.
Particles. Particles are solid or liquid substances which are light enough to be suspended in the air, the largest (8 microns and greater) of which may be visible in sunbeams streaming into a room are typically non respirable. However, the smaller particles (7 microns and smaller) that you cannot see are likely to be more harmful to health since these are considered respirable. Particles of dust, dirt, or other substances may be drawn into the building from outside and can also be produced by activities that occur in buildings e.g. operation and maintenance practices, housekeeping practices, printing, copying, operating equipment, construction, remodeling, people….
Is establishing baseline IAQ conditions in my building important?
Yes, as Yogi Berra once said “if you don’t know where you are going, you might not get there?”Indoor air quality is no different. If you don’t know the present IAQ conditions of your building are and you are having IAQ upgrades performed to enhance your buildings IAQ then how would you know that you improved those conditions if you didn’t have a baseline to start with? You wouldn’t.
It is not practical to design a universal guideline fit for all in terms of exposure and health because immunity varies greatly from individual to individual. EDLab at Pure Air Control Services performed a 10 year study analyzing more than 7,000 buildings and over 25,000 environmental samples that were collected across the United States and abroad. The building types included both commercial and residential. The majority of samples analyzed were tested positive for bacteria and fungi.
In this study the average (normal baseline) concentration of air-borne culture-able (viable) bacteria was 175 CFU (Colony Forming Unit)/m3, and the fungal concentration in ambient air was recorded at 350 CFU/m3. The average concentration of non viable air-borne mold/fungal elements was estimated at approximately 1,000 cts (counts)/ m3. These baseline numbers are used as a reliable indicator for an expected average of disseminated microbial (bacteria/fungi only) concentrations in today’s modern buildings.
On the heels of the Snell Fire in Napa County, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District [BAAQMD] warns that, once again, smoke from the state’s many still-burning wildfires could pose a threat to the Bay Area, putting a Spare the Air warning in place over the weekend that will last through Tuesday.
According to the BAAQMD, “Upper level smoke from wildfires may impact visibility in northern and eastern parts of the Bay Area,” through September 11. The agency goes on to say that “if it looks smoky outside, avoid physical outside activities” and “keep indoor air as clean as possible” by keeping the windows closed.
Looking at the EPA’s AirNow air quality site, it appears that conditions in the Bay Area over the weekend were consistently clear during what turned out to be a resplendent couple of days in most areas.
On Sunday, for example, patches of “moderate” quality bad air did spread across parts of the North Bay and East Bay, as predicted.
But conditions never worsened beyond the “moderate” level on the EPA’s air quality scale (the second least worrisome measurement of air pollutants). In San Francisco and the rest of the region, skies remained clear.
Today’s AirNow forecast calls for more extensive haze in the North Bay; however, the outlook remains sound for SF and other more southern regions.