Spending quality time with family and friends against the backdrop of a burning fireplace is an enjoyable experience. Cleaning out a dirty chimney, not so much. Unfortunately, many homeowners who put off this unpleasant but necessary chore don’t realize that a dirty chimney can make them sick.
Some of the symptoms a dirty chimney can cause include but are not limited to:
While you’re enjoying your wood-burning experience, creosote, soot, ash, and other particulate matter adhere to the flue and interior walls as contaminants are being expelled through the chimney. These contaminants can result in smokier fires. The inhalation of smoke and other pollutants in the chimney can cause burning eyes, skin irritation, allergic reactions, and respiratory issues. It can also be especially harmful to individuals with asthma and COPD. Prolonging the exposure to smoke inhalation can lead to the development of skin and lung cancer.
The chemical reaction associated with combustion produces several contaminants including, carbon monoxide, creosote, and other gases. The accumulation of creosote and gas residue inside the chimney can significantly increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Also, small animals, pests, and debris can obstruct the flue interfering with the venting of fumes that can cause carbon monoxide to back-up into the living space. Since carbon monoxide (CO) is a tasteless, colorless, and odorless gas, it is impossible to detect without a functioning CO detector. Some of the symptoms of CO poisoning include lightheadedness, headache, nausea, and difficulty breathing, for example.
Failure to clean and inspect the chimney regularly makes it difficult to determine if there are ventilation issues, water leaks, and other problems affecting its condition. It can result in a warm and humid chimney that is ripe for the development of mold and bacteria. Mold spores can multiply very rapidly and spread throughout your entire home contaminating other surfaces. It can cause a variety of health issues, especially in sensitive individuals, even if it’s non-toxic. You may develop flu-like symptoms such as headache, coughing, sneezing, fatigue, and difficulty breathing. It can also trigger an allergic reaction and an asthma attack in specific individuals.
The best way to inoculate your chimney, so it doesn’t make you or your family sick, is to clean your chimney annually. National fire and safety experts recommend annual chimney cleanings. It will reduce the risk of fire and other health problems that a dirty chimney can cause. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this yourself. You can hire a Certified Chimney Sweep® to do it for you. It’s quick, easy, and affordable. A chimney sweep has the training, tools, and protective equipment to thoroughly clean the entire chimney removing any excessive creosote, soot, ash, and other residue sticking to the flue, masonry, and components without exposing your living space to these contaminants.