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Chimney health hazards you should know about

It’s no secret that chimneys are dirty places. What might not be so obvious is that the substances that collect within your chimney can pose some serious health hazards. It’s important to know what chimney health hazards might affect your home and family and how to avoid those hazards.

Some chimney health hazards include:

  • Creosote exposure. Creosote forms within your chimney every time you burn wood. The dark, tar-like substance can cause serious health problems if you come into contact with it. Creosote can cause skin and eye irritation. If ingested, it can damage and irritate your kidneys, lungs and liver. Long-term exposure to creosote has been linked to mental problems and cancer.
  • Smoke and soot inhalation. Smoke and soot travel up your chimney each time you light a fire. However, some of that smoke might be making its way back into your home and into the air you breathe. Smoke and soot inhalation can cause breathing problems, aggravate asthma and cause bronchitis. Long-term wood smoke and soot inhalation also can lead to lung cancer.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning. All combustion creates carbon monoxide. Like smoke, carbon monoxide should be traveling up your chimney and safely out of your home. If your chimney is blocked or not functioning properly, however, that carbon monoxide can build up within your home and sicken you and your family. Carbon monoxide poisoning causes headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, loss of consciousness, organ damage and even death.

Before you swear off using your fireplace, know that there are ways that you can safely burn a fire within your home, without compromising your health or the health of your family. To protect your family from chimney hazards:

  • Have your chimney swept and inspected by a certified chimney sweep at least once per year. Your annual chimney sweep will remove hazardous creosote and soot from your chimney, reducing the chances that creosote will find its way back into your home. Your chimney sweeping and inspection also ensures that your chimney is functioning properly and free from blockages, which means carbon dioxide and smoke will be able to safely exit your home. Never attempt to clean your chimney yourself, as that can expose you to creosote and soot.
  • Make sure your chimney is drafting properly. If lighting a fire sends smoke back into your home, consult a chimney sweep. An improper chimney draft can be caused by a blockage in the chimney, improper flue size and negative pressure within the home, among other things. Correcting your draft will help keep smoke and soot out of your home.
  • Only burn properly seasoned firewood. Dry firewood burns hotter and more efficiently than wet or freshly cut firewood. That means when you burn properly seasoned firewood, less creosote and soot will build up within your chimney.
  • Upgrade your fireplace. Fireplaces have become increasingly efficient in the last 25 years. Upgrading your open-hearth wood-burning fireplace with a fireplace insert can lower the amount of particulate matter enters the air each time you light your fireplace.

While your chimney does come with some health hazards, you don’t have to avoid using your fireplace to protect your health! By following the proper precautions, you can enjoy your fireplace safely.

By Joe Sauter on March 30th, 2017 | Tagged with: Tags: , , , | Leave a Comment

The Dangers of Carbon Monoxide

You rely on your home heating appliances to keep your family warm and safe during the cold winter months. Whether you heat your home with a fireplace, fireplace insert, heating stove or furnace, you should be aware of the dangers and signs of carbon monoxide.


How carbon monoxide enters your homeThe Dangers of Carbon Monoxide - Idianapolis, IN -Your Chimney Sweep

A byproduct of combustion, deadly carbon monoxide can be produced by any furnace, stove or fireplace. Carbon monoxide can build up in your home if a heating appliance malfunction, or if your duct work or chimney becomes obstructed. Carbon monoxide poisoning is especially a concern in newer homes, which are more air tight, and in older homes that have newer heating appliances hooked up to older ventilation systems. Additionally, drafty older homes are often “winterized” to keep warm air in and prevent cold air from entering. While draft-free homes are more efficient, they also can allow carbon monoxide to build up when a heating appliance is improperly vented or malfunctioning.


Dangers of carbon monoxide in your home

At the very least, carbon monoxide in a home can cause flu like symptoms for the home’s inhabitants, including headaches, dizziness or fatigue. As it progresses, it can cause confusion or cause people to lose consciousness. More than 400 people die in the United State each year from carbon monoxide poisoning. An additional 20,000 people visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized because of carbon monoxide poisoning each year. If anyone in your home is experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, everyone should leave the house and the fire department should be called.


Detecting carbon monoxide

The best way to protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning is to install carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of you home and within 10 feet of all bedroom doors. The carbon monoxide detectors you select should carry a seal of approval from a reputable testing laboratory. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation, and be sure to check carbon monoxide detectors and replace batteries regularly. If carbon monoxide detectors sound in your home, immediately make sure that everyone exits the home, and call 911.


Preventing carbon monoxide buildup

Your home heating systems inspected annually by a professional. Your annual chimney sweeping will ensure that your chimney is free from soot, animal nests or other debris that can prevent carbon monoxide from leaving your fireplace or stove. Fireplaces, stoves and furnaces should be cleaned and inspected to make sure they are venting and operating properly. During your annual cleaning and inspection, your technician also will verify that your chimney or ventilation system is properly sized and fitted to your furnace, fireplace or stove.
If your fireplace, chimney, stove or furnace is overdue to be cleaned and inspected by a professional, call to schedule your appointment today! Regularly servicing of your heating appliances and ventilation system is the best way to keep your family safe from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.