Fires destroy buildings, scorch possessions, and threaten human and animal life. Fire and smoke do more damage, however, to people and animals than is readily apparent. Smoke from fires can cause significant damage to an individual’s eye health. Here’s how fires contribute to eye damage.
What are leading causes of property fires?
Home fires may be caused by a wide range of triggering incidents. Kitchen fires can occur when the homeowner leaves a stove unattended. Electrical fires are common when wiring becomes frayed or otherwise damaged. Portable heaters are also a leading cause of home fires.
Across western states, like California, ongoing wildfires rage. Over 7,000 incidents have occurred in 2021 alone. An estimated two million acres have burned, and three thousand structures were destroyed. While no loss of human life occurred, the wildfires aggravate sensitive areas, like the eyes.
As is evident by the aforementioned causes of fires, flames are fueled by a range of sources, whether forest, brush, wood, tires, waste or structures. Every type of fire releases smoke. The miniscule smoke particles are produced by the incomplete burning of materials containing carbon.
What do smoke particles contain?
Smoke particles consist of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter (PM or soot). Various chemicals are integral components of smoke. The types and amounts of chemicals in smoke vary depending on the fuel source, the level of available oxygen and the temperature of the burn.
The different chemicals that smoke contains include aldehydes, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, acid gases, benzene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, toluene, styrene, metals, and dioxins. Considering the harmful chemicals contained in smoke particles, it is important to limit exposure to high levels of smoke.
Why does smoke particle size matter?
Individual smoke particles are too tiny to be seen with the naked eye. Particulate matter varies in size; the smaller they are, the more harm they cause. Smoke particles from wildfires, for instance, can be 2.5 microns or less in diameter (consider that one inch is equivalent to 25,400 microns).
Larger smoke particles, such as those bigger than 2.5 microns, are less harmful to health, since the particles do not have the ability to penetrate deeply. Unfortunately, most wildfire smoke is made up of smoke particles that are smaller, that is, 2.5 microns or less in size.
How do smoke particles affect the eyes?
These tiny smoke particles can become stuck in the eyes. The floating smoke particles remain in the air even after a fire has been extinguished. Due to this reason, wearing protective eyewear is a critical safety measure necessary when entering an area in which a large fire has recently burned.
Without taking precautions when exposed to smoke, the smoke particles can cause eye irritation. Individuals who are in areas with high levels of smoke are likely to experience a range of symptoms that affect the eyes, including a burning sensation and redness.
Smoke from fires does not discriminate when it comes to causing eye irritation. Even individuals with healthy eyes will succumb to the ill effects of smoke exposure. People suffering from dry eye syndrome, however, can expect to experience higher levels of eye irritation.
Further side effects of smoke pollution include the halting of tear production; the symptom occurs when smoke particles clog ducts in the eye. Smoke particles that enter the eye can cause corneal abrasions or irritations. Inflammation of the eyes is commonly experienced.
People exposed to heavy amounts of smoke can start to suffer from blurred vision or similar visual impairments. Smoke from fires can result in burning or itching of the eyes. Acute conjunctivitis, which is caused by irritation to toxic chemicals, is an eye condition that can develop after smoke exposure.
Smoke can linger in the air. When individuals are exposed for prolonged periods to smoke particles, irreversible vision problems and damage to the eye can occur. Chronic eye conditions are not unusual in people who have been exposed to high levels of smoke for lengthy periods.
In California, for instance, wildfires release airborne smoke particles that travel for hundreds of miles. Although the immediate danger is to residents within 25 miles of the fire, the smoke particles linger in the air for up to two weeks after the fire is extinguished.
What safety measures protect the eyes from smoke?
Such sobering facts mean that smoke has the potential to cause ill eye health in people long after the fire is put out. Reducing the health consequences of smoke exposure requires that individuals practice eye safety, especially since it is not always possible to avoid going outside.
Routine eye exams can diagnose an eye condition before it becomes severe. On smokey days, limit time spent in the outdoors. When it is necessary to go outside, wear eye protection. If wearing contacts, clean them often. Regularly rinse out eyes to remove contaminants.
Professional Fire Damage Restoration
When you are faced with a property fire, it is important to begin the restoration process immediately after the flames are extinguished. A restoration company that can help you return to normalcy after a fire is ServiceMaster EMT. We provide first-rate fire damage restoration services.
Our experienced fire damage cleanup technicians are skilled in restoring properties that have been affected by fires of all types, whether protein fires, synthetic fires or wood and paper fires. No matter what caused the fire, it is important to quickly stop the spread of the ruin.
Fire and smoke damage spread rapidly. Permanent etching and discoloration to affected materials will occur if the damage is left unaddressed. ServiceMaster EMT crews will clean and replace the material goods, such as carpets, walls, ceilings, and upholstery, destroyed by the smoke and fire.
Fire damage is an emergency, one that requires a quick and professional cleanup. The experienced pros at ServiceMaster EMT provide high-quality restoration services to homes and businesses in Los Angeles, California. Call us for prompt and reliable fire damage cleanup services any day of the year.
Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 800-376-6678 for emergency fire damage restoration in the Southern California area and all of Nevada. We are available 24/7.