Once The Smoke Clears, What Are The Health Dangers?

By: Jessa Goddard
By: Jessa Goddard

Knoxville (WVLT) - Everyone was amazed by the sheer size of the flames that destroyed the buildings at the McClung Warehouse.

Not to mention, the amount of smoke released into the air.

Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard has more on the environmental impact of such a massive fire, and the subsequent health effects.

While fire investigators try to determine a cause, many of us are concerned about the effect.

Many people are already experiencing the short-term side effects, but could there be other, more serious side effects on your long-term health?

Medical research has proven exposure to second-hand cigarette smoke can cause lung cancer.

But does the same hold true for the thick, black smoke that billows from a massive fire, such as this?

Doctor Mark Cromie, the Tennessee Allergy society President says, "just like somebody like myself who has asthma, if I happen to go out to dinner and there's a bar nearby where there's smoke, I'm going to have problems, so these people can be experiencing some increased respiratory difficulty from this acute event."

Dr. Cromie says smoke, in any form, is a respiratory irritant, and if you're sensitive to smoke due to asthma or any illness, you're probably already coughing, wheezing and experiencing shortness of breath.

If you live or work near Knoxville's Old City, limiting your exposure will reduce any possible side effects.

And that includes limiting your use of your indoor heating and cooling system.

Dr. Cromie continues, "because also there's soot and some other things that are the byproducts of this fire that we don't know exactly what all is in there and we don't want that to enter the in-dwellings of your hvac system or your air-conditioning, heating system."

One thing working for people who live and work downtown is the wind speed Wednesday morning.

It moved the smoke quickly, not allowing it to settle into homes and businesses.

Because of the age of the building, there is speculation asbestos may have been inside the walls of the McClung warehouse, but firefighters have yet to determine that.

Still, Dr. Cromie says, asbestosis is due to long-term exposure, not a short-term event.

"Usually, it's chronic exposure. Asbestosis is a disease that progresses over 15 or 30 years, so it's chronic exposure and a large amount, so this short event, I wouldn't think would have any detrimental effects, long-term."

If you don't already own an air purifier, you might want to buy one.
It can help clear the air, so to speak, in the short-term and clean the air, in the future.

An official with the Tennessee Clean Water Network says that hasn't yet been determined if our water is at risk, right now they're more concerned about the health and safety of the firefighters involved.


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