soot on teapotQuestion: Hello LCS Laboratory. We recently had kitchen fire and the damage was repaired by our insurance company. We want to be sure that there is nothing dangerous in air before move back in.  Can you test? M.J.

Answer. Hello M.J. During a fire 1000’s of chemicals are produced, and unfortunately there is no single test that can test for all hazardous vapours. On this page we will discuss what to watch for when you house was repaired after fire.  Once your contractor invited you to see the place after renovation, have a pen ready and keep notes on your observations:

  1. You visited the place and do not feel any smell of smoke, do not see any fire related stains on the walls and ceiling. The air quality in your house is likely good, and it is possible that you do not need air quality testing.
  2. sootIf you can smell distinct odor of fire smoke, we can collect phenols from air. Phenols are indicators of presence of residual smoke in air. The phenols rarely cause health problem, and at low concentration they are mostly a nuisance.
  3. If you see soot stains on windows, mirrors, or china, we can measure soot concentration on them. Soot on surfaces is not regulated, but is definitely an indicator of poor cleaning practice used by your contractor. Soot in air can be tested to ensure that there is no immediate health risk.
  4. When you see oily, tar-like stains with clear smoky odour you need to show you to your contractor. This is pitch or creosote. It is packed with all kind of dangerous chemicals including Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH). PAH’s are known carcinogens. and should be tested if pitch is detected. We offer PAH analysis on wipe samples and in air.
  5. If the house was built before 1985, then there is good chance that it contains lead paint. You can collect wipe samples of construction dust and air samples for lead to prevent lead poisoning.

If you need to order those or any other tests, please email us at your convenience.