A dirty chimney is a potential danger to any home, and to the people in the home. Do you know the last time that your chimney was inspected and cleaned by a professional? Perhaps you live in a home that has been in the family for generations, or perhaps you moved into a home believing that there are no issues with the chimney.

Homeowners or owners of rental properties may assume that there are no risks or dangers related to delaying chimney cleaning and inspection. The truth is that there are many health issues that can arise from having a dirty chimney. Delaying the cleaning of the chimney poses a significant risk to the health of every family member, and can potentially be a life-threatening issue.

The Importance of Having an Annual Chimney Cleaning and Inspection

Cleaning a chimney should be a part of regular home maintenance to protect the safety and health of family members and guests. A chimney needs to be cleaned and maintained regularly, with a chimney cleaning and inspection occurring at least on an annual basis. The Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA) indicates that government agencies, which include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Fire Protection Association, and the American Lung Association are among the agencies stressing the importance of regular maintenance of home heating systems along with chimneys to help protect against carbon monoxide poisoning.

There are several factors relating to failure to have a regular cleaning and maintenance check of the chimney that can potentially lead to a number of health issues, including both short-term and long-term health problems. Although some homeowners may consider some issues with chimneys to be a minor or regularly occurring issue, the fact is that even common issues related to failure to clean and maintain a chimney can lead to serious, even potentially life-threatening problems. This is another reason that regular inspections and maintenance performed by professionals that have the training and expertise to properly clean, maintain and inspect your heating systems and chimney are crucial to maintaining a safe home, and protecting your health and the health of your loved ones.

Trusting a trained, qualified professional to maintain the chimney and perform regular cleanings may also prevent chimney fires. Chimney fires do more than endanger the home. They can endanger the safety or lives of occupants. Statistics indicate that in 2014, there were 22,500 fires that were attributed to the fireplace, chimney, and chimney connector. There were more than 48,000 fires between 2014 and 2018, which resulted in the death of 500 people that were caused by home heating systems. The National Fire Protection Association indicated that heating equipment was the second leading cause of home fires and the third leading cause of fire deaths during the period. Even without a fire, there are significant risks to individuals when a home has a dirty or faulty chimney. Soot and creosote exposure are examples of these risks, which may lead to chimney respiratory issues, eye and skin irritation, and even the potential to develop certain forms of cancer.

Eye and Skin Irritation Caused by a Dirty or Obstructed Chimney

Irritation to the eyes and skin may occur as a result of several factors related to a dirty or obstructed chimney. Soot is a by-product of the incomplete burning of organic materials. The black or brown powder that is left can irritate the eyes and the skin. People can inhale or ingest soot. It can also be absorbed into the skin.

The National Cancer Institute indicates that the general public, and not just personnel working in certain industries can be exposed to soot. This includes exposure through fireplaces and heating systems. Soot has been declared as a human carcinogen. Skin cancer, as well as certain other types of cancers have been attributed to soot for several years.

Respiratory Issues Related to Your Chimney

Failure to have the chimney inspected and cleaned on at least an annual basis may lead to serious respiratory issues. Soot buildup on interior walls of chimney liners, creosote exposure, and carbon monoxide poisoning directly related to a dirty, blocked, or otherwise unsafe chimney can contribute to a number of respiratory issues.

The smoke, partially burned or unburned wood particles, gases, and other substances may contribute to respiratory distress or disorders, and can potentially cause lung cancer. The results of a study in 2016 added esophageal cancer as one of the prevalent cancers that is often attributed to soot exposure.

The Dangers of Creosote Exposure

Creosote is the brown or black residue that sticks to the inner walls of a chimney. Several potential situations may contribute to the buildup of dangerous creosote in the chimney. Some conditions include the use of unseasoned wood, having a restricted air supply, having a high degree of soot buildup, or having cooler than normal temperatures inside the chimney. Creosote buildup in a chimney can cause a fire.

The dangers of creosote include developing a rash or other skin irritation, experiencing pain inside the mouth or throat and possible mental confusion. Prolonged exposure to creosote may lead to damage to the eyes, or an increased sensitivity to sunlight. Creosote also potentially leads to kidney or liver damage or certain types of cancer. Some research results indicate that birth defects can occur if a pregnant woman is exposed to creosote over a period of time. The dangers that are related to creosote may eventually lead to death.

All forms of creosote are combustible, and can be removed by a professional chimney cleaning. Having an annual inspection of the chimney can help to detect any hidden dangers and health risks associated with the chimney, including the presence of creosote.

The Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

There is always a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if you or your loved one fails to have the chimney cleaned, inspected and maintained no less than on an annual basis. Even experiencing low levels of carbon monoxide as a result of a dirty or obstructed chimney can cause serious health issues. Some early symptoms may cause issues that may be mistaken for a cold, allergies, or the flu. A person may also experience exhaustion, fatigue or depression. Other symptoms may include dizziness, headaches, nausea, confusion or fainting from carbon monoxide exposure from a faulty or dirty chimney.

Carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to permanent organ damage, brain damage, or death when too much carbon monoxide enters the blood. The fact that carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, invisible and tasteless can cause carbon monoxide poisoning in the home to go unnoticed until serious consequences, even death occurs.

Homeowners should not believe that when they have modern heating systems or appliances installed in a home that there is no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. The newer high-efficiency furnaces, when vented into an existing chimney flue, may not perform at an optimal level, according to sources. Getting a chimney cleaning and inspection can help detect and prevent dangers that may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Avoid Delays in Getting Your Chimney Cleaned and Inspected

The health risks associated with a dirty chimney or a poorly maintained chimney are all potentially dangerous to family members and guests. You can improve your health and reduce the risks of developing health issues that are caused by exposure to soot, creosote, carbon monoxide or other chimney-related hazards.

Are you a professional chimney sweep? Do you have the experience or qualifications to inspect a chimney? Most people would likely admit that they do not have these qualifications or expertise. That is the reason that inspecting and cleaning chimneys should be left to the professionals that have the proper training and experience.

Protect your health, along with the health and lives of your loved ones, by having your chimney inspected and cleaned on a regular basis. Do not delay this important responsibility any longer. Keeping yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy in the home starts with one simple call to schedule a cleaning and inspection of your chimney.