A Dirty Chimney Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
Many homeowners depend on the fireplace to keep their home warm and comfortable during the winter. However, annual chimney cleanings and inspections are essential and shouldn’t be avoided. A dirty chimney can negatively impact the health of your family. The particles of dirt and other contaminants attach to the walls and components inside the chimney when you use the fireplace. They can float through the air inside your home and cause a variety of illnesses, including respiratory problems similar to the flu.
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas that is dangerous to your health. It is naturally produced during the combustion of liquid and fossil fuels. Continuing to use a fireplace that has not been cleaned in quite some time increases the risk of CO exposure. Carbon monoxide poisoning can cause flu-like symptoms, such as nausea, fatigue, and headache.
More than 50,000 people are hospitalized with over 500 deaths due to CO poisoning every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Annual cleanings and inspections and installing a CO detector can help prevent exposure to carbon monoxide in your home.
Creosote starts as a benign, white powdery substance that is quite easy to remove. When you continue to burn the fireplace, additional layers of creosote forms. Over time, this white substance turns into a black or brown, tarry compound that is highly flammable and extremely difficult to remove without professional assistance. Breathing in creosote while you’re using the fireplace to stay warm can make you sick. Some common symptoms of exposure include blurry vision, skin rash, eye irritation, and respiratory problems. Long-term exposure can also lead to kidney and liver failure and skin cancer.
Smoke and Soot
An accumulation of leaves, twigs, and pests can obstruct the flue resulting in dangerous gases and contaminants including, smoke, soot, and other pollutants to back-up into your living space. Its adverse health effects are similar to smoking cigarettes.
The smoke and soot can irritate your skin and eyes, causing a stinging sensation. Prolonged exposure can result in lung and respiratory problems making it difficult to breathe.
How to Keep Your Home Safe
Proper chimney maintenance will help keep your family safe while enjoying the fireplace. For best results, hire a Certified Chimney Sweep® to inspect and clean your chimney annually. Only burn seasoned wood as unseasoned firewood creates more creosote and other harmful residues. Also, make any necessary chimney repairs promptly.