MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: what is fire smoke

Date: Wed Feb 18 16:24:09 2004
Posted By: Donald E Duggan, Undergraduate, Astronomy/physics - fire science, just plain ol' home
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 1076452149.Ch

Smoke from fire contains a vast array of chemicals and elements found in regular household building materials and furniture items. There is carbon dioxide, not a killer in itself, but it can displace good air; there is carbon monoxide, which is a killer due to its tenacious behaviour around human blood. CO will attach itself to the blood some 255 times more quickly that will regular diatomic oxygen (O-2) or what we need to keep us alive here on earth.

The earth's atmosphere is made up of about 20% oxygen, 78% nitrogen and one percent other gases in varying trace amounts. Once the O2 has fallen to below 16%, its ability to sustain life of the human sort is dramatically reduced. As well, many plastics like urathanes, etc. can be found in fire smoke due to the stuffing in furniture being made of foam, which is made from plastics. Soot particles in the smoke is simply ash from wood.

These are but a few of the things you will find in the everyday type fire of todays' variety. Quite a different animal from when your granparents were new to this side of the world.


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