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What is Soot and Is It Dangerous?

Health issues to know about soot, protective measures….

As residents of Port Harcourt and its environs grapple with the black soot, the latest atmospheric challenge they have to live with, experts have warned that long-term exposure to soot poses serious health risks, and could lead to cancer and other critical health problems, which could cause premature death.

According to National Cancer Institute of America, “Soot is a byproduct of the incomplete burning of organic (carbon-containing) materials, such as wood, fuel oil, plastics, and household refuse. The fine black or brown powder that makes up soot may contain a number of carcinogens, including arsenic, cadmium, and chromium.”

Medical Director, Charis-Med Hospital, Lagos, Dr. Olayide A. Jinadu, while shedding light on soot and the health implications caused by exposure to it said, “soot is a black tarry powder or flak-like substance consisting largely of amorphous carbon, produced by the incomplete combustion of organic matter. People are exposed to soot from various sources, namely exhaust fumes from petrol and diesel generators or cars, smoke from kerosine stoves, smoke from burning firewood in poorly ventilated areas, smoke from smelting companies and smoke from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. People who work near such companies or with such machines are especially at risk of numerous respiratory diseases, with a blanket name known as pneumoconiosis.”

“Pneumoconiosis is a consequence of long-term exposure to soot. It is the general term for lung disease caused by inhalation of mineral dust. The lungs are made up of tiny air spaces which allows for proper gaseous exchange, when individuals get exposed to soot for too long, they begin to line the walls of these air spaces (aveoli) impeding the normal ability for gaseous exchange. Pneumoconiosis makes patients prone to other respiratory disease like pneumonia, asthma and others,” he explained.

On available treatment options, he said they include preventing further exposure to silica dust. Immunisation of patients against influenza and pneumococcal pneumonia.

No specific therapy for pneumoconiosis cures or alters the course of the disease, though steroids are found to be beneficial. In patients with very advanced pneumoconiosis and without other significant comorbid conditions, lung transplantation should be considered.”

He added: “Pneumoconiosis can be prevented by avoiding indiscriminate burning of bushes, fossil fuels, fitting the exhaust pipes of vehicles and generators with catalytic converters and filters to drastically reduce the emission of soot and other pollutants. Adequate measures can be taken by wearing face masks and other safety gadgets for those perpetually exposed to soothy smokes.”

He added that exposures can be reduced through widespread education and enlightenment on the health hazards of soot exposure; employing other environmental friendly means to generate power, and the enforcement of laws against air pollution by the government, he advised.

What is Black Soot?
Black soot can best be described as a product of the incomplete combustion of fueled carbon. You see, when carbon burns all the way through, very little residue is left. When it doesn’t, it leaves behind a black, flaky substance called soot.

Incomplete combustion can be identified by a yellow flame, while complete combustion burns with a blue flame.



Soot vs. Mold: How to Tell Them Apart;


Most people find it a little difficult to differentiate between soot and mold. They both appear as if out of nowhere on your walls, carpet, or furniture, as black discoloration spots. However, while black soot comes as a result of incomplete combustion, mold is a type of fungus that grows in moist spaces. You’ll see it as a slick orange film coating your kitchen drain or a fuzzy white patch sitting on your basement floor.

Since mold is a living organism, you’ll notice it grows gradually over time, even without interference. It may also take on different colors, like white, green, purple, or orange.

Why Am I Getting Black Soot In My House?
Soot is produced when carbon burns incompletely. In most cases, it accumulates from burning carbon items like clothes and plastic, but it can also come from things as unnoticeable as scented candles.

You see, while they might seem small and harmless, some candles, like scented candles, are just not as efficient as burning. When the oil in the scented candle fails to burn completely, it instead fumes off into the air as black soot. The soot particles are very small and can float in the air for several months.

In addition to candles, furnaces are also major producers of soot within your home. This applies more to gas furnaces, which tend to produce a lot of soot if not well-maintained. In fact, soot may be the earliest sign that your gas furnace needs maintenance.

Another thing that can lead to a lot of soot is a fire in your home. In this case, you’ll also experience a residual smoke odor on your furniture that can be really hard to get rid of. In such severe cases, it is advised that you consult a cleaning service that can better handle fire damage.

Areas Where You Might Find Soot In Your House
soot-in-window.jpg
Below are common areas that are susceptible to gathering soot;

The base of the door — This mostly happens as your carpet filters it from the air
On light switches and outlets — Static electricity tends to attract soot
On your walls — This is often due to temperature differences in different parts of the wall leading to ghosting(the creation of black spots).


Why Is Black Soot Dangerous?


Studies show that around 40,000 people die in the U.S every year as a result of exposure to soot among other air pollutants. In addition, soot exposure is also said to cause around 300,000 asthma attacks every year. So, to answer your question, yes, black soot can be dangerous and even fatal to some people.

Essentially, soot gets into the human body through ingestion, inhalation, or through the skin and eye. When in the body, soot particles can cause coronary heart disease, breathing issues, including asthma, and even cancer. Those most affected by soot include infants, the elderly, and those with prevailing breathing conditions.

How to Prevent Black Soot
A few preventive measures can be adopted to prevent soot from accumulating in your home. They include:

Ensure the house is well aerated before using scented candles
Use alternatives to lighting candles like LED candles and candle warmers
Use high-quality pleated air filtersHow To Clean Up Soot
Your typical household will have a variety of chemicals in the form of plastics, foams, carpets, wood products, and synthetic fabrics, among others. When burnt, these items may produce soot that leads to health hazards. They also stick to other home items like appliances, causing discoloration.

Some of this soot and chemicals used in cleaning can cause more harm than good if used the wrong way. For this reason, you are advised to consult a professional cleaner. Professional cleaners usually have the right set of tools and expertise to wipe the soot out without leaving any traces.

Tips To Prevent Formation of Black Soot
You can prevent the accumulation of soot in your home by using the right types and quality of candles. Use hard candles that do not soften easily. This indicates that they are made using higher-quality ingredients.

Also, use candles with single wicks. Multi-wick candles are more likely to break the glass candle jar, and they also produce more soot.

Finally, you can check the chemicals added to the candles before buying. Some of them tend to add harmful gases to the air when burnt.

Types of candles that produce a lot of soot
While all candles produce some amount of soot, a few factors make some produce more soot than others. Below are some candles that produce excessive soot:

Candles poured in containers and glass jars — these tend to have some oxygen cut off when burning hence causing incomplete combustion. What you get is overall more soot.
Scented candles — they contain volatile aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which may not burn completely.
Candles that emit a yellow flame — a yellow flame usually indicates incomplete burning. Such candles will therefore cause more soot.
Candles made from paraffin wax and soft wax with unsaturated hydrocarbons
Candles with wicks that burn unevenly
Getting rid of soot can be a long, tedious process. Without the right equipment it can be really difficult to get satisfactory results. Well, this is where a professional cleaner comes in.

How To Clean Up Soot
Your typical household will have a variety of chemicals in the form of plastics, foams, carpets, wood products, and synthetic fabrics, among others. When burnt, these items may produce soot that leads to health hazards. They also stick to other home items like appliances, causing discoloration.

Some of this soot and chemicals used in cleaning can cause more harm than good if used the wrong way. For this reason, you are advised to consult a professional cleaner. Professional cleaners usually have the right set of tools and expertise to wipe the soot out without leaving any traces.

Tips To Prevent Formation of Black Soot
You can prevent the accumulation of soot in your home by using the right types and quality of candles. Use hard candles that do not soften easily. This indicates that they are made using higher-quality ingredients.

Also, use candles with single wicks. Multi-wick candles are more likely to break the glass candle jar, and they also produce more soot.

Finally, you can check the chemicals added to the candles before buying. Some of them tend to add harmful gases to the air when burnt.

Types of candles that produce a lot of soot
While all candles produce some amount of soot, a few factors make some produce more soot than others. Below are some candles that produce excessive soot:

Candles poured in containers and glass jars — these tend to have some oxygen cut off when burning hence causing incomplete combustion. What you get is overall more soot.
Scented candles — they contain volatile aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which may not burn completely.
Candles that emit a yellow flame — a yellow flame usually indicates incomplete burning. Such candles will therefore cause more soot.
Candles made from paraffin wax and soft wax with unsaturated hydrocarbons
Candles with wicks that burn unevenly
Getting rid of soot can be a long, tedious process. Without the right equipment it can be really difficult to get satisfactory results. Well, this is where a professional cleaner comes in.

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