Soot and burnt structures left behind in Lāhainā are extremely toxic. Read more to see how you can protect yourself & your ʻohana
Photo by: Tiffany DeMasters
Homes and commercial structures break down into hazardous substances when burned, including plastics, petroleum products (asphalt shingles), treated wood, adhesives, and heavy metals. Burnt ash may include arsenic, cobalt, chromium, lead, mercury, phthalates and PAHs.
Electronics, appliances, batteries, vehicles, household chemicals, pesticides and herbicides become hazardous when burned.Ash and soot can be difficult to clean without making it airborne.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
After a fire, the remaining ash, debris and soil will be contaminated with hazardous chemicals. The dangers may not be obvious.
Toxic particulate matter can enter the body through the lungs or by contact with the skin. You may be exposed to skin contamination by eating, drinking, or smoking without washing your hands.
Benzene and PAHs and Dioxins may have entered water sources and could enter the screams, coastline and the aquatic life.
Residual smoke and ash are made of hazardous chemicals that, in the long term, can cause severe injury, damage DNA of individuals and even their offspring, and cause death.
Everyone is at risk. Those at the greatest risk are infants, children, the elderly, and those with weakened respiratory systems or cardiac ailments.
VOCs Volatile Organic Compounds
Human-made chemicals used in thousands of products, from paints and drugs to cleaning supplies and office equipment. Exposure causes eye, nose and throat irritation, breathing difficulty and nausea. Heavy exposure causes nervous system and organ damage, while some are linked to cancer.
Burning plastic releases hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and heavy metals.
Generated when plastics burn. They are incredibly long-lived and remain in ash and soil.
Short-term exposure: skin lesions (chloracne), patchy darkening of the skin, and altered liver function.
Long-term exposure: is linked to impairment of the immune system, the developing nervous system, the endocrine system and reproductive functions.
Also linked to: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, porphyria, endometriosis, early menopause, reduced testosterone and thyroid hormones, altered immunologic response, skin, tooth, and nail abnormalities, altered growth factor signaling, and altered metabolism.
There is no safe exposure amount to Dioxins and some of the toxic plastic byproducts.
WAYS OF PROTECTION
WEAR A RESPIRATOR
WEAR CHEMICAL-RESISTANT GLOVES
DRINK BOTTLED / SAFE WATER
Wet dust, debris, ash, and soil before and during removal
Limit skin contact with soot and wash yourself regularly
Don't eat or smoke while in contact with soot
Wash exposed clothes separately and well
Proper personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn by anyone entering an environment affected by fire. Ideally, this would include outer coveralls such as Tyvek® suits, a fit-tested respirator with P-100 type filters designed for vapors or a supplied air or powered air-purifying respirator, gloves, boots, etc.
Ozone and Hydroxyl can produce hazardous byproducts and are not proven to be 100% effective in removing all toxic chemicals or particulate matter from surfaces or the air.
Sealing or encapsulating exposed surfaces or applying liquid deodorizers does not address toxic particulate matter suspended in the air, soot, or VOC’s.
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