Indoor Air Toxins: Reducing Indoor Soot


Black soot and other evidence of pollutants from combustible materials can provide a valuable warning. Reducing these materials is essential for our best health.

In order to minimize air pollutants from other combustible material in your home, there are a few things you can do. First, make sure that your furnace and hot water heater are properly vented, especially if they are powered by gas. Have your equipment inspected and serviced regularly. Always turn on the range hood exhaust fan when using a stovetop or oven, especially if you are using a gas stove. Importantly, make sure the exhaust is directed via ductwork to the outside. It is ironic, but while writing this chapter I discovered that the exhaust fan over my gas range was directed to a dead space above the kitchen cabinets, and not to the outside! Instead of ridding the house of the gases from the stove and oven, they were being dispersed throughout the house.

If you use a fireplace or burn wood for heat, make sure to open the flue. Have your furnace flue and chimney inspected and cleaned annually. If you use a wood stove, make sure the stove meets EPA standards and that the doors fit tightly on the unit.

If in an emergency situation you find yourself using a generator for energy, don’t operate it in the house, no matter how cold it is outside. Generators should be placed as far away as possible from open windows, vents, and doors so the fumes don’t waft into the house.

Smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes causes the release of numerous pollutants into the air. The effects of second-hand smoke are well documented. Vaping an e-cigarette is marketed as a safer alternative to cigarettes, but who really knows? The chemicals that make up e-liquids are proprietary information and manufacturers are not required to label them or disclose the ingredients. Vaping fluids are reported to contain fewer chemicals than cigarettes, but it has been shown that vaping releases propylene glycol as well as other toxic chemicals into the air. Some studies have shown that the “flavors” added to vaping fluid have been discovered to add toxic effects to e-cigarettes, with the most significant health effects attributed to the strawberry flavor. Incredibly, these flavors have not yet undergone extensive testing.

See all the posts in this series on airborne toxins in your home:
Indoor Air Toxins 101: The Basics of Indoor Pollution
Indoor Air Toxins 101: Understanding How We Breathe
Indoor Air Toxins 101: Understanding Indoor Air Pollution
Indoor Air Toxins 101: The Dangers of Candles
Indoor Air Toxins 101: Reducing Indoor Black Soot
Indoor Air Toxins 101: VOCs, Asbestos and Lead
Indoor Air Toxins 101: Understanding Mold & Health