1. #1
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    Default How many chemicals are in smoke?

    Hello...I'm trying to find out how many chemicals are in the smoke of a typical structure fire. I tried to search it on the Internet, and could only get the chemicals in Cigarette smoke. I've heard that in the 50's, there were 19, and now there are over 4,000. Is that correct? Was hoping to enlist the help of a few braniacs on the forum. Thanks for the help...

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    depends on whats on fire.....wood, plasitcs, flam liquids ..all of them ? I bet 4 K isnt that far off ...
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    It depends highly on what's burning, what temperature it's burning at, etc... I doubt it is possible to come up with a set number when so many variables are involved.
    When the fire reaches a certain temp., most of the products are CO and Hydrogen cyonide. A few of the more common products in a "typical stucture fire" are: CO, Hydrogen cyanide, Acrolein, Formaldehyde, Hydrogen chloride, Hydrogen Flouride, Phosgene, Nitrogen oxides, Nitriles, Tolylene diisocyanate (TDI), glutaraldehyde, benzene, SO2.

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    Back in Sept. or Oct. of 2004 Fire Engineering had a supplement to their issue that addressed hydrogen cyanide in smoke. I cannot remember if it also discussed any others but it was a good read. I'm sure they still have to have copies of it. You can also check NIOSH and see what they have under their testing they do. They often have great fire models in their research section so perhaps they have something on smoke as well. EPA might also have something.

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    I think it might be relatively easy to pin down the main components of smoke (carbon, CO, CO2, etc.), but there are so many variables that it would be damn near impossible to pin down all the combinations.

    Is there a particular reason you're asking that might limit the list of components?
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    Generally stated the products of complete combustion are CO2 and H2O. When the combustion is not complete as in a normal structure fire you get CO and carbon added into the mix. Products added to pressure treat the lumber used to construct the building can contribute heavy metals such as arsenic to the smoke, along with HCN, HCL, and the other chemicals mentioned in previous posts.

    I do believe that the 4,000 chemicals in todays smoke is reasonably accurate.
    Shawn M. Cecula
    Firefighter
    IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

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