The Effects of Fire on Indoor Air Quality

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indoor air qualityOne of the unfortunate aspects of fire in a building is the resulting loss of the quality of indoor air. A fire that is damaging but stopped in time to save the structure can seriously erode the air for a long time into the future. Any fire, no matter what materials are burned, puts off gases that can be detrimental to health; but in a house fire, many man made materials pollute the air much worse than simple natural combustible materials.

Carpets, laminates, plywood, vinyl floor covering, and other materials put off fatal gases during the fire and continue to be dangerous even after the fire is extinguished. Soot, ash, and char present a health hazard until such time as they can be totally removed from a burned building.

Water Damage and Resulting Hazards

After the firemen leave, water must be removed from a structure before any other actions can be taken to remove burned materials and begin restoration. The problem with water is where it goes and can’t be removed. Water can be sucked up into drywall, seep through cracks, and become invisible to the eye. No matter where it may remain, mold spores will begin to multiply and cause even more problems.

Mold will begin to grow within 24 hours of water intrusion, and it can develop rapidly when the humidity is high. Mold is known to cause allergic reactions in some people and can lead to asthma attacks and fungal infections. Because mold is so difficult to remove once it becomes attached to materials, it is imperative to dry out a building immediately following the fire. Mold can attach itself and absorb into almost any material.

Buildings with crawlspaces may have standing water beneath that spawns mold continually if the issue is not addressed. Building materials in general that become infected with mold spores should be removed during reconstruction efforts.

Hazards During Rebuilding

When reconstruction efforts begin, there are many hidden hazards that may surface based on the construction practices at the time a building was erected. Lead paints are often beneath new coats and are extremely dangerous. Additionally, asbestos is still present in many structures from the days when it was used for insulating purposes. It is highly recommended that a qualified abatement company be contacted to assure that no such problems exist.

New construction can also bring with it materials that emit VOCs, so when a home undergoes fire damage repair, it is necessary to take steps to ensure that those dwelling there are protected. Honeywell Air Purifiers with HEPA filters remove 99.97% of the dangerous pollutants in the air after the construction is completed. A Honeywell Tower Air Purifier works well in a normal room to process the air and is light and portable enough to move about easily.

A fire takes away many treasured things that can never be recovered, but it can do much worse than that if the right corrective issues aren’t followed so that people can safely return to a home or business after the fire damage is addressed. Simply visually covering fire damage is not enough because the airborne pollutants will make their way into the living space. The conditions will never improve unless they are completely handled during reconstruction.


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