Property tax adjusters assigned a fire loss can be exposed to a number of toxic substances even after the fire has gone out, according to Property Casualty 360, a national underwriter company.
Adjusters are often on the scene within hours of a fire being extinguished. They are charged with activities such as meeting with the insurer, taking photos of the damage, sketching the building layout, writing a repair estimate, and compiling an inventory of lost or damaged property. This work can take hours or even days on the burn site to complete. As these insurance professionals step over the char and debris left behind by the fire, they may not realize the health risks they face.
Even after the fire department has cleared a fire scene, dangers can remain. Toxic volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, can saturate indoor air with poisonous gasses and particles, which, if inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin, can have short-term or long-term adverse health consequences.
Most insurance adjusters know the dangers of materials like asbestos, a mineral that was widely used in building materials like insulation until the 1970s. When microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne, like during renovation or demolition, they can be easily inhaled or ingested. Over time, asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma, a rare but deadly form of cancer that develops in the lining of the lungs, abdomen, and internal organs.
Products that burn in structure fires can produce countless toxins that can prove hazardous to humans. Some of the most toxic chemicals and gases found in smoke include hydrogen cyanide, sulfur dioxide, PCB, hydrochloric and sulfuric acid, and arsenic. Other toxins that can be released during fires include benzene, a chemical that has been liked to blood cancers like acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
When products that contain carbon or chlorine burn, like plastics containing PVC, electrical wire, carpeting, and toys, they can produce dioxins. Dioxins are one of the most toxic manmade compounds on earth. Exposure to dioxins can cause congenital malformations, and a slow wasting syndrome that leads to death, and are also thought to cause lung, larynx and prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, and other serious health problems.
“Insurance adjusters should take proper measures to protect themselves and never underestimate the dangers of structure fire smoke, soot, ash or VOCs,” Property Casualty 360 cautioned.
Source: Property Casualty 360