A document published by the Bavaria Environment Ministry provides information about toxic residues after fires for the attention of professionals or householders carrying out post-fire clean-up. Bavaria’s fire services are called to 18 000 fires per year, with most occurring in homes.
The document reminds that all fires emit toxic gases including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, ammonia, and halogenated compounds. Dangerous emissions can also come from asbestos, synthetic mineral fibres and wood protection chemicals. After the fire, a number of toxic compounds may be present in deposits and soot, and the document particularly cites: PCDD/F, PBDD/F, PCBs, PAC (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). The document describes the type of cleaning and protection from toxins in soot which are appropriate after different scales of fire. For smaller fires, private individuals can carry out cleaning but should use protective clothing and take other measures to avoid contamination. For larger fires, or fires involving significant quantities of halogenated plastics, specialist cleaning companies should ensure decontamination.
“UmweltWissen – Schadstoffe bei Brandereignissen”, Bayerisches Landesamt für Umwelt (“Environment information – dangerous substances following fires”, Bavaria Environment Ministry), LfU ref. 12, updated Oct. 2014 http://www.lfu.bayern.de/umweltwissen/doc/uw_15_brandereignisse.pdf