The Trouble With Soot

Soot (and ‘by’products) from burning wood, diesel, coal or other fossil fuels are bad enough for the planet, but did you know that those particles attract harmful chemicals (secondary organic molecules) from the air so when we breathe them in, their adverse health effects can be multiplied?

smokestack earth

Here’s a must see two and a half minute video from The Allegheny Front, a radio program covering environmental issues in Pennsylvania.

(I hope the video embeds properly, wordpress and vimeo don’t always get along)

Shocking, isn’t it? Especially the part about the soot particles acting like the droplets of water in a nebulizer, concentrating the bad stuff (those other chemical gases they attracted) into dense globs, and delivering it into your lungs. Shocking, unless you have MCS/ES, in which case you knew there was more to it, because breathing in smoke and exhaust affects more than ‘just’ our lungs…

Maybe we need to stop burning so many things and implement better pollution controls?

Pollution is so bad in parts of China where they manufacture (mostly disposable stuff) for the west, that they can’t see the sun anymore, and the pollutants are blowing across the ocean, affecting North American air quality too.

Lest you think soot (and the attached molecules) are only an outdoor problem, think again! Here’s an article about indoor soot, and it’s more common than you might think.

In the case of candles, it’s best to avoid all paraffin and scented candles. Choose  100%  beeswax candles if you really need to burn some on a birthday cake or during a power outage. Then again, with all the bees dying off, maybe that’s not such a good idea either.

For ambiance lighting, consider the new battery operated  LED lights that mimic candle-light. Beware that some of the LED candles are scented (which just introduce more pollutants into the air). These look really neat, although I’m not convinced they are MCS/ES safe (and I have no financial or other interest, they are just an example I found).  Without having tried any myself, and not being able to go out comparison shopping, I’ll have to leave that testing to someone else.


And please, if you use a fireplace, you really need to read this.


Masks in China

In the meantime, while we push for and wait for better regulations and enforcement, it might be prudent or even necessary (especially for some of us) to protect ourselves by wearing a mask wherever we encounter noticeable pollution (sadly, even indoors). Good quality air purifiers (all metal, with enclosed motors, with pounds of activated carbon) and HEPA filters can help remove some pollutants from our homes or workplaces, but there is no substitute for clean air.

I love clean air

3 responses to “The Trouble With Soot

  1. Pingback: No Fun in the Sun With Summer VOCs | Seriously "Sensitive" to Pollution

  2. Clean air? Where? My cousin climbed Mount Kenya and says from up there they could see the cloud of pollution lying over the African landscape below. Kenya is about as non-industrialised as you are likely to get anywhere. We simply have to create our “clean air” indoors with air conditioning and air purifiers and elimination of all fragrance and other obnoxious odours. Regards from Cape Town, South Africa

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