Save on Pinterest

8 Scary Ways Your Fireplace Could Be Toxic

A roaring fire can really make wintertime more bearable. But could it be dangerous to your health? Sadly, yes. Here's why.

1 / 8
01 Fire Scary Ways Your Fireplace Could Be Toxic 521242939 Vadym ZaitsevVadym Zaitsev/Shutterstock

Wood Smoke Contains Some Nasty Chemicals

There are many common fire hazards in your home, but this health hazard concerns the smoke from that cozy fire. Wood smoke actually contains some pretty potent toxins, including benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It also adds particulates to the air, which can harm your lungs.

2 / 8
02 Carbon Scary Ways Your Fireplace Could Be Toxic 71112382 Inga NielsenInga Nielsen/Shutterstock

You Could End Up With Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

One of the biggest dangers of fireplaces is also one of the hardest to detect: carbon monoxide.

“Carbon monoxide is the odorless, colorless toxic byproduct of burning fuel,” says Dr. Ian Tong, chief medical officer for Doctors on Demand.

“It competes for space in red blood cells with oxygen. So even a small amount can impact your body’s ability to carry oxygen to the cells. Exposure to this gas can literally poison or suffocate you without warning, but it can also cause numerous symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and nausea.”

To minimize the risk, install carbon monoxide detectors and sit away from the fireplace.

3 / 8
03 Asthma Scary Ways Your Fireplace Could Be Toxic 610002350 Africa StudioAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

If You’re Asthmatic, a Fire Could Be Problematic

People with asthma always need to be on the lookout for surprising triggers for an asthma attack. The particulates in the air from burning wood could exacerbate breathing difficulties associated with asthma.

“Asthmatics should avoid open fires,” says Tong. “If that is the only way to stay warm, then exercise caution and wear an N95 mask.

4 / 8
04 Fire Scary Ways Your Fireplace Could Be Toxic 700789807 Glebchikglebchik/Shutterstock

You Need To Watch What’s Around the Fireplace

Anything near the fireplace could potentially heat up and release toxins.

“It’s not always what is in your fireplace that poses the danger, but what is around the fireplace and the vents for the fireplace that needs some attention,” says Tong. “Do not leave plastics or chemicals or cleaners near the heat, as these could be flammable or toxic when heated. Also do not use tape around vent ducts, as this could cause a build-up of carbon monoxide.

This is especially an issue around the holidays. One of the arguments in the ongoing fake vs. real Christmas tree debate is that artificial trees are sprayed with fire retardant to make them less flammable, whereas dry evergreens could easily catch fire if exposed to heat. Here are a few tips for indoor gas-burning fireplace safety.

5 / 8
05 Fire Scary Ways Your Fireplace Could Be Toxic 596816120 Africa StudioAfrica Studio/Shutterstock

If You Have Respiratory Ailments, You Need To Be Cautious

People with chronic respiratory conditions like COPD could be putting themselves at risk by regularly using a fireplace. “If you have an existing respiratory condition, you should really pay close attention to air quality in your home,” Tong says. He suggests using a humidifier or a HEPA air filter to help remove the particulates that can do the worst damage.

Here’s how HEPA filters and other tools can help by reducing your exposure to allergens. Doctors have been particularly impressed with Molekule, an air purifier that uses nanotechnology to break down pollutants on a molecular level. It’s reportedly good against allergens, mold, bacteria, viruses and airborne chemicals.

6 / 8
06 Bonchitis Scary Ways Your Fireplace Could Be Toxic 171525560 Image Point FrImage Point Fr/Shutterstock

You Could Be Putting Yourself at Risk for Bronchitis

The EPA warns that short-term exposure to wood smoke could lead to the development of acute bronchitis. After repeated exposures to wood smoke, you could develop chronic bronchitis.

7 / 8
07 Cancer Scary Ways Your Fireplace Could Be Toxic 283602125 Minerva StudioMinerva Studio/Shutterstock

You Could Increase Your Risk for Lung Cancer

A 2010 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that fireplace users had an elevated risk of developing lung cancer. Tong also warns of the risk: “Repeat exposure can permanently damage the lungs and increase the risk of cancer similar to smoking.”

8 / 8
08 Fire Scary Ways Your Fireplace Could Be Toxic 442475791 AlexmasterAlexMaster/Shutterstock

What You Burn Could Harm You

On TV shows, criminals seem to burn a whole lot of evidence in the flames — clothing, tapes or discs, and more. But Tong says that the list of safe things to burn in a fireplace is pretty short.

“Items that burn inefficiently create the most carbon monoxide,” he says. “Avoid burning wet wood, cardboard, paper with color print, Christmas trees, painted or treated wood, plywood, particleboard or chipboard or plastics.”

The Healthy
Originally Published on The Healthy