The word “soot” sounds so simple and harmless. To some, it conjures up images of campfires and candles, and perhaps a charming dance number from Mary Poppins. In fact, soot is anything but simple and is certainly not harmless.
Soot includes the fine black particles, chiefly composed of carbon, produced by incomplete combustion of coal, oil, wood, or other fuels. Soot can consist of acids, chemicals, metals, soils, and dust. The common trait of soot particles is that they are extremely tiny – 2.5 micrometers or smaller in diameter. This is smaller than dust and mold, and is about 1/30 the diameter of a human hair.
This combination – extremely small size and toxic composition – is what makes soot so dangerous. It can travel deep into the lung, where the compounds it consists of can do some serious damage.
Compounds from soot – sulfur dioxides and nitrogen oxides – combine with moisture to form acid rain, which worsens water quality, damages soil and crops, and changes nutrient balances in various ecosystems. Breathing the tiny particles can cause coronary heart disease, asthma, bronchitis, and many other respiratory illnesses. Research has also shown that many premature deaths are directly related to soot in the environment. Particle exposure leads to around 20,000 premature deaths in America each year. Many of these deaths were caused by soot-related diseases. Data also show that soot annually causes almost 300,000 asthma attacks and 2 million lost workdays due to respiratory problems.
The air in your home after a fire will extremely unhealthy as mentioned above. You will want to immediately use commercial HEPA air scrubbers on each floor to help filter the particulate matter out of the air. You will want to have machines that produce a minimum of 800 CFM (cubic feet per minute) of filtered air flow. You should be doing approximately 8-10 air exchanges per hour. Hydroxyl generators should also be used to help to deodorize and sanitize the air, additional air movers will be needed to spread the hydroxyls around to each room. It is a good idea to start in the “source room” (the area where the fire occurred and then move to obey areas of the home that have been affected. Proper PPE should be worn will performing the cleanup. (See below.)
One of the most hazardous conditions is when either someone doesn’t feel there was enough soot to cleanup or did not cleanup all of it correctly. The reason is the occupants of the home go on living in their home as they did before the incident and are living, sleeping, eating in it and not realizing that their house is contaminated. They have a false sense that everything is good.
Who should I call?
Call a certified smoke & odor cleanup company. There are a couple of main accreditation’s that restoration companies can have. The primary association is IICRC, which offers accreditation’s for a variety of different trades, such as Fire and Smoke Restoration Technician (FSRT), Odor Control technician (OCT), Water Damage Restoration Technician (WRT), Applied Structural Drying Technician (ASD), and a host of others. Companies and individuals can also become certified through RIA.
It’s important to use a company certified to perform the work you need done. Not only do they know how best to cleanup the smoke damage and remove the odor, but you’re less likely to deal with any issues/concerns from your adjuster during the claims process. They’ll typically have a list of reputable, certified contractors in the area that deal with smoke damage losses, so they’re familiar with their level of service and professionalism.
If your home or business is in North NJ, we’re a company that can provide the expert help you need to clean up and restore your home from your smoke & odor loss.