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Everyday Household Materials Yield Toxic Smoke

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

Made and created by firefighters

Smoke Kills

What would you choose when asked, “Would I rather die by freezing or burning?”  When answering, you may want to consider the following.   In many cases, smoke will kill you before the fire starts.  According to the NFPA, smoke inhalation, not burns, is the cause of most fire related deaths.  House fires can be particularly dangerous because there is nowhere for the toxic smoke to escape. As fire consumes oxygen the concentration of toxins increases. This leaves residents exposed to lethal fumes.  These toxins can cause seizures and cardiac arrest in seconds.

Toxic Materials

The most common sources of lethal fumes are found in manmade materials. Anything in your home containing plastic, cotton, wool, rubber, nylon, and/or foam is suspect.  As these materials burn, they produce a gas called Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN). This gas is similar to those used at concentration camps during the Holocaust.  HCN fumes cause permanent damage and are often fatal.

Hydrogen Cyanide (HCN)

According to research by Fire Engineering Magazine, HCN is 35 times more toxic than carbon monoxide and is highly flammable. It will increase the size of a fire instantly.

“Cyanide is acutely toxic to humans. Liquid or gaseous hydrogen cyanide and alkali salts of cyanide can enter the body through inhalation, ingestion or absorption through the eyes and skin… Inhalation of 2,000 parts per million hydrogen cyanide causes death within one minute.”  (International Cyanide Management for the gold mining industry)

A Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) study showed that each year Cyanide smoke inhalation causes:

  1. 5,000 to 10,000 deaths

  2. Over 23,000 injuries, including 5,000 firefighters

What Do I Do?

Common household objects containing the components that create HCN when burned are hard to get rid of.  So, instead of losing your bottles, buckets, dishes, cushions, and children’s toys—minimize the risk of smoke and fire.

By far, the #1 cause of home fires is unattended cooking. FireAvert is designed to minimize smoke and prevent cooking fires.  This uniquely simple device plugs into your stove and is synced to your smoke alarm.  When the alarm sounds, FireAvert cuts power to your stove. This protects your home from deadly toxin smoke and fires.  So even if you’ve accidently left the house, you’ll still come home to a safe, clean, smokeless environment.

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