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The Deadly Smoke kills more People than the actual Fires do..Article by Dr. Yashoda Tammineni HOD, HSE at NIFS

  By : , Visakhapatnam, INDIA       13.4.2020         Phone:8374340999,0891-2551699          Mail Now
  More than half of fire-related deaths result from smoke inhalation. Smoke inhalation occurs when you breathe in harmful smoke particles and gases during a fire.

Inhaling harmful smoke can inflame your lungs and airway, causing them to swell and block oxygen. This can lead to acute respiratory distress and respiratory failure leading to death. Inhaling such smoke can cause a range of health problems, from burning eyes and a runny nose to aggravated chronic heart and lung diseases. Exposure to particle pollution is even linked to premature death.

Smoke inhalation commonly happens when you get trapped in a contained area, such as a kitchen or home, near a fire. Most fires occur in the home, often from cooking, fireplaces and space heaters and electrical malfunctions at most of the workplaces.

The smoke released by any type of fire (forest, brush, crop, structure, tyres, waste or wood burning) is a mixture of particles and chemicals produced by incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials. All smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter (PM or soot). Smoke can contain many different chemicals, including aldehydes, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, toluene, styrene, metals and dioxins. The type and amount of particles and chemicals in smoke varies depending on what is burning, how much oxygen is available, and the temperature.

Inhaling smoke for a short time can cause immediate (acute) effects. Smoke is irritating to the eyes, nose, and throat, and its odour may be nauseating. Studies have shown that some people exposed to heavy smoke have temporary changes in lung function, which makes breathing more difficult. Two of the major agents in smoke that can cause health effects are carbon monoxide gas and very small particles (fine particles, or PM2.5). These particles are two and one half (2.5) microns or less in size (25,400 microns equal an inch) and individual particles are too small to be seen with the naked eye.

Inhaling carbon monoxide decreases the body's oxygen supply. This can cause headaches, reduce alertness, and aggravate a heart condition known as angina. Fine particles are able to travel deeply into the respiratory tract, reaching the lungs. Inhaling fine particles can cause a variety of health effects, including respiratory irritation and shortness of breath, and can worsen medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease.

There is also the potential for chronic health effects from exposure to the components of smoke. Long term exposure to ambient air containing fine particles has been associated with increases in cardiovascular disease and mortality in populations living in areas for long durations.

What exactly makes the smoke toxic during a fire?

- Mesothelioma (cancer) causing asbestos fibres from building materials used in the 1950s-1980s. - Carbon materials can produce carbon monoxide, hydrogen, ammonia, nitrogen oxides, and tar. - PVC may create hydrogen chloride, phosgene, dioxin, chloromethane, bromomethane, and halocarbons. - Sulfur can form hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, and thiols that can cause residual smoke odour. - Partial oxidation of released hydrocarbons can yield formaldehyde, acrolein, furfural, ketones, alcohols, phenols, cresols, carboxylic acids, and more… - Even wood smoke released shares more than 100 chemicals also found in cigarette smoke.

Preventing smoke inhalation

To help prevent smoke inhalation - -Smoke detectors should be installed on each level at home and workplaces to detect the smoke and fire that might help in managing the fire risk, as per the National Fire Protection Association.

- Smoke naturally rises, stay low to the ground as you make your way to the exit.

- Install carbon monoxide detectors outside sleep areas on each level.

- Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly and replace batteries every year.

- Make an escape plan in case of fire and practice it with your family and others living in your home and at workplaces.

- Don’t leave lit cigarettes, candles, or space heaters unattended and extinguish and dispose of smoking-related items properly.

- Never leave the kitchen unattended while cooking at home.

- Always follow general fire safety precautions regardless of where you live. Taking time to review fire safety tips and fire safety issues can help you create a safer and more secure living environment for you, your friends, and family.

Practice Fire Safety!!

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