Dirty Chimney? Watch Out for These Common Health Hazards 

October 15, 2019

Your fireplace does wonders to keep you nice and toasty in the dead of winter. Unfortunately, the same fireplace that can be a lifesaver can also negatively impact your health if it becomes dirty. Carbon monoxide poisoning, respiratory problems, eye and skin irritation, and animal-transmitted diseases can all result from poor chimney maintenance. Learn more below from our Apex chimney contractor.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

When it comes to the hazards of a dirty chimney, carbon monoxide poisoning is at the top of the list. This colorless, odorless gas is produced whenever wood, gas, charcoal, or kerosene is burned. If the fire is properly ventilated and the chimney is clean and sound, dangerous quantities of CO will not be released. But if creosote levels have been allowed to build up, the materials will not combust properly and CO will be released into the home. High levels of CO can kill a person within minutes, an in fact, CO is the number one cause of poisoning fatalities in the U.S. You know what we’re going to say now—make sure to keep your chimney professionally cleaned!

Respiratory Problems

We mentioned creosote above. This black, oily substance builds up every time the chimney is used, much like a blockage in an artery. Aside from causing an unpleasant smell and being a fire risk, creosote also causes respiratory problems when inhaled. Those with asthma or similar lung issues are particularly at risk.

Eye and Skin Irritation

Creosote doesn’t just hurt your lungs—it can also irritate your eyes. Think of how smoke causes the eyes to smart and burn in a house fire, and you will understand the damage you risk by exposing your eyes to creosote over and over for an extended period of time. Creosote particles can also irritate the skin for those who are sensitive.


The primary disease that can be brought to you right through your chimney is histoplasmosis, which is caused by chimney swifts. Once these small, brownish birds take up residence in your chimney, they cannot be legally removed, as they are a protected species. Their droppings may contain histplasma capsulatum, a fungus which causes the histoplasmosis respiratory infection. Symptoms generally resemble those of the flu, and include chronic coughing, chest pain, fevers and chills, and loss of appetite.

Stay Safe with our Apex Chimney Cleaning Company

Avoiding all these issues is very easy. Just make sure your chimney is cleaned, inspected, and repaired before you open if for the season. A professional chimney cleaner can determine any internal structures of your chimney are damaged, and safely remove creosote, soot, and chimney swift deposits. To schedule a chimney inspection, click here!