10 Feb 2016

Long-Term Health Effects of Fire Damage

The financial costs of fire damage are devastating and often immeasurable. Unfortunately, the long-term effects of fires on your health can be more difficult to detect, but just as sinister.

The smoke expelled by any kind of fire contains a combination of chemicals generated by the incomplete burning of carbon-containing substances. This means that all smoke contains carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter-more commonly known as soot. But depending on the burn temperature, the materials burning, and the amount of oxygen available, smoke may also contain benzene, metals, toluene, dioxins, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), hazardous chemicals that affect your body in a host of serious ways.

Lung Function

When you inhale smoke for a short time it can produce immediate acute effects, like irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. But when smoke makes its way into the vents and ducts of your home, the small smoke particles often get into your HVAC system, and can linger undetected for months on end. Breathing in these particles can lead to lung irritation and possible scarring of the alveoli, the terminal ends of your respiratory tree. These particles, which are too small to be seen with the naked eye, can make breathing much more difficult. Indeed, medical journals indicate that nearly 50% of all fire-related hospital visits are linked to upper respiratory injuries, including coughs, sore throats, and shortness of breath.

Heart Problems

Inhalation of smoke is also dangerous for your heart. When you inhale carbon monoxide, your body┬┤s oxygen supply diminishes. Low oxygen levels can reduce alertness, induce headaches, and exacerbate angina, chest pains caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. Long term exposure to smoke particles have also been linked to increases in cardiovascular disease. One medical study suggests that systemic and pulmonary inflammation can occur as a result of exposure to smoke particles, in addition to higher overall rates of mortality.

Psychological Impact

Frequently ignored but just as serious is the psychological damage a fire can cause. Studies have found that survivors of fire damage can experience an increase in symptoms of major depression and anxiety, as well as an uptick of signs associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The risk of these symptoms is greater when a fire causes property damage or physical injury.

Cancer Rates

While cancer is not among the most common consequences of fire damage, prolonged exposure to fire has been shown to increase the risk of cancer-particularly digestive, oral, respiratory, and urinary cancers, according to the Center for Disease Control. The study found that fire damage survivors were nearly twice as likely to experience malignant mesothelioma, a condition linked to the asbestos exposure that can happen during a fire.

Much research remains to be done on the long-term effects of fire damage. However, evidence indicates that the after-effects of a fire can be as devastating to your health as to your wallet, both in mind and body. If you have been affected by a fire, call Vital Restoration today to help you get your home or business back as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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