EcoWaste Coalition Cautions the Public against Inhaling Toxic Smoke During Fires


With the onset of the annual “Fire
Prevention Month,” an environmental watchdog promoting chemical safety and zero
waste alerted the public about the danger of being exposed to fire smoke.

“Smoke from fires, which is made up of chemicals and particles from burning
materials, is hazardous to health and should be avoided,” said Aileen Lucero,
Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Depending on what is burning, which is often a combination of mixed combustible
materials, the smoke can cause or even worsen health problems, particularly for
young children, the elderly and persons with heart and respiratory conditions
and those with chemical sensitivities,” she said.

The EcoWaste Coalition aired the warning in support of the fire safety campaign
being undertaken by the Department of Interior and Local Government – Bureau of
Fire Protection (DILG-BFP).

“Besides reminding our communities to prevent fire at home or workplace through
good housekeeping, we find it necessary for the public to be informed about the
need to avoid exposure to smoke when there is a fire,” Lucero observed. 

“Oftentimes, we see victims and spectators standing close to the fire scene and
directly breathing in the toxic smoke,” she added.

Aside from carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and dust particles or soot, smoke
may contain a variety of air pollutants, including acid
gases, benzene, heavy metals, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons, sulfur dioxide and persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins,
which are formed when materials containing chlorine are burned, the EcoWaste
Coalition said.

According to the World Health Organization, “air pollutants have been
linked to a range of adverse health effects, including respiratory infections,
cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer.”

Exposure to smoke can have immediate effects such as coughing, a harsh throat,
irritated sinuses, headaches, nausea, runny nose and tearing eyes, while those
with heart conditions may experience chest pain, fatigue, rapid heartbeat and
shortness of breath.

In a bid to reduce the negative health consequences
of exposure to smoke, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the public to consider the
following health and safety suggestions:

1.  Stay away from the fire source, take precautions and avoid exposure to
intense and even to low or moderate  smoke.

2.  If you are within a safe distance from a burning building, factory or
residence requiring no evacuation, stay indoors and shut the doors and windows
to prevent smoke from entering your place.

3.  Switch off the air conditioner until the air quality outside has

4.  If you need to go outside, find a suitable respiratory protection to
minimize exposure to harmful gases and particles, bearing in mind that
bandannas, handkerchiefs or dust masks may not be effective in filtering out
very fine particles.

5.  Refrain from cigarette smoking, which can only exacerbate pollution in
the fire area.

“We hope that our fire fighters as well as rescue volunteers are properly supported
with tools to keep them safe from pollution hazards inherent in their
life-saving job,” Lucero said.

“It’s also important for the public to follow the instructions from the crowd
control authorities and keep the streets and alleys accessible to the fire
respondents,” she added.