News & Reviews

Paradise Camp Fire-Toxic To Everyone!

As of today, the toll from the fire started last week in northern California, is 71 fatalities and 150,000 acres lost. The fire is only 55% contained but it is slowing down.

The recent count of structures burned in the Camp Fire in Paradise CA is now over 12,000 and many if not most of those were older stock built prior to 1979. The problem with older structures is they contain toxic materials like lead and asbestos from earlier (and now banned) construction methods. Here’s a brief rundown on the paint and other coatings used on most of those structures that is now loose and wafting around in the air.

From the 1940’s to the 1970s PCB’s were widely used in paints and preservatives. Most paints used until 1978 contained lead. Paints contained mercury until 1990. These heavy metals were used to improve flow, durability, flexibility and to improve resistance to fire damage and moisture. When plastic is burned it also releases toxic chemical fumes (like dioxins, furans and styrene gas) into the air that are really bad for you and the environment.

According to health scientists, burning wood and other materials coated with paint containing PCBs, Lead, Mercury and other heavy metals results in exponentially higher exposure to those harmful chemicals. An even greater concern is the danger of exposure to Dioxins and Furans, which are produced when PCBs are burned at lower temperatures. Old stains can also contain toxic ingredients, and even some new paints include ingredients which should never be burned, for example paints containing Teflon which produces a very hazardous gas if burned.

Lead affects practically all systems within the body. At high levels it can cause convulsions, coma, and even death. Lower levels of lead can adversely affect the brain, central nervous system, blood cells, and kidneys. The effects of lead exposure on fetuses and young children can be severe. They include delays in physical and mental development, lower IQ levels, shortened attention spans, and increased behavioral problems. Fetuses, infants, and children are more vulnerable to lead exposure than adults since lead is more easily absorbed into growing bodies, and the tissues of small children are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Children may have higher exposures since they are more likely to get lead dust on their hands and then put their fingers or other lead-contaminated objects into their mouths.

Get your child tested for lead exposure. To find out where to do this, call your doctor or local health clinic. For more information on health effects, get a copy of the Centers for Disease Control’s, Preventing Lead Poisoning in Young Children (October 1991).

If you are in the affected area, by all means take precautions to filter your breathing air. This is serious stuff and lord knows what the long-term ramifications are going to be. We are all part of this disaster.

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