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How to Avoid Health Hazards with Fireplaces

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There are all kinds of hazards in the average home, but have you ever thought about the smoke and other byproducts that come from a fireplace or fire pit? 

Here are some of the health hazards that fireplaces and fire pits can cause. But don’t worry. With some forethought, you can avoid most of these issues and enjoy spending hours next to your cosy, warm fire. 

Be careful what’s around the fire

Whether it’s an indoor or outdoor fireplace, you should use care with what’s around the fire. Experts recommend never leaving chemicals, cleaners, or plastics near the fire because they could be toxic or flammable when they become heated.

Also, never use any kind of tape around the vent ducts because this can cause dangerous carbon monoxide to build up.

It’s also important not to store any kindling or wood next to your indoor or outdoor fireplace. Keep the flammable materials at least 10 feet away and you should be safe. 

Choose the right wood

You should always use seasoned hardwoods in a fireplace or firepit. Some of the best options are hickory and oak; you can choose cherry or apple if you prefer a different aroma. 

Wood smoke can be hazardous

Most of us like the aroma of a wood fire, but it can be bad for your health if you’re around it too often. The biggest health danger from wood smoke is from fine particles, also known as PM2.5. These are tiny particles you can’t see that enter the respiratory system and eyes. 

You could have stinging, burning eyes, a runny nose, and a cough if you are exposed to wood smoke for too long. 

Fine particles from wood smoke can also trigger asthma symptoms, and in some cases, can cause strokes and heart attacks in those who are at the highest risk. 

Use care with what you burn

In films, criminals seem to toss all sorts of incriminating evidence into the fire – clothing, bags, tapes, CDs, and much more. However, the list of things that you can safely burn in a fireplace isn’t much.

Many household items that you toss in a fire will burn inefficiently and produce dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. 

Other things that you shouldn’t burn in a fireplace or fire pit are: 

  • Christmas trees
  • Painted or stained wood
  • Particle board
  • Wet wood
  • Cardboard 

Follow basic safety guidelines with your fire pit

When you set up your fire pit in the backyard or on the patio, there are a few safety things to remember: 

  • Check the direction of the wind before you light or turn the fire pit on. 
  • Never use a flammable liquid to relight or light the fire pit. 
  • Don’t wear flammable clothing or clothing that is loose fitting. 
  • Keep pets and small children at least five feet from the fire pit. 
  • Never use soft woods in the fire pit because they will pop and spark. 
  • Have a garden hose, bucket, or fire extinguisher nearby. 

Use a screen 

Most fire pits and fire pit tables have a screen. Make sure to use this when you use the fire pit. A good screen will prevent sparks from being thrown about. And remember not to have anything flammable close to the fire pit to prevent problems. 

When you invest in a fire pit in the backyard or a fireplace in the home, you’re sure to get lots of enjoyment out of it. Just remember these safety ideas and you’ll have years of trouble-free memories around a cosy fire.

Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle. 

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