How a Dirty Chimney Can Make You Sick

A fireplace in winter might prevent you from getting a cold, but don’t neglect chimney maintenance. Besides potentially causing a house fire, a dirty chimney can make you sick. Schedule chimney services in the springtime when most people refresh their homes with a thorough cleaning. Creosote buildup is a potential health threat in any season, but carbon monoxide exposure is a threat only when fires are burning. Learn more below.

chimney creosote buildup, atlanta gaCreosote

Wood fires create the biggest messes because combustion byproducts include creosote. Creosote is a highly flammable, toxic, tar-like substance that should be removed when at least 1/8” of buildup is in the flue. When cleaning is ignored, creosote will continue to build up in layers. It isn’t unusual for chimney sweeps to clean out chimneys in which creosote has almost entirely blocked the flue.

A dirty chimney can make you sick because of creosote. Serious creosote buildup could cause significant health problems for members of your family. Symptoms of creosote exposure are:

Respiratory problems

If creosote particles are breathed in for a prolonged period, lung issues and other respiratory problems could develop. Elderly people and the very young are most at risk.

Eye irritation

Burning, irritated eyes, and watery eyes can occur from creosote exposure. If someone rubs their eyes to relieve symptoms, further damage could be done that could affect vision.

Skin problems

Direct contact with creosote can cause skin irritations, rashes, and lesions.

Abdominal issues

Long-term exposure to creosote can cause abdominal problems that affect the kidney and liver.


Extreme exposure to creosote causes cancer, especially in males, but this is very rare today. Long ago, small children were used as chimney sweeps, and they literally crawled into chimney flues. Male chimney sweeps were often afflicted with cancer. In fact, a chimney sweep had the first reported case of industrial cancer. Using children to sweep chimneys became unlawful in England in 1864.

Mental confusion. Extreme exposure to creosote can cause confusion and, in some people, seizures.

Carbon Monoxide

Another way a dirty chimney can make you sick is by causing carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Sooty creosote and any other obstruction in the chimney liner can cause combustion gases to go into the home putting your familyat risk. Carbon monoxide is one of those combustion gases, but it has earned a reputation as the Silent Killer. It is tasteless, invisible, odorless, and, up to a point, symptomless.

Carbon monoxide is also a threat to health if the chimney flue is damaged. Through even a tiny crack in the chimney liner, carbon monoxide can leak into the home. This is an extremely dangerous situation.

Statistics show that every year approximately four hundred people die from CO poisoning. Another 50,000 people are hospitalized with ailments caused by CO exposure. Carbon monoxide can cause permanent brain damage, vision loss, hearing loss, cardiac complications, muscle weakness, miscarriages, and death.

Everyone with a solid fuel heating appliance should install carbon monoxide detectors as recommended by safety experts.

professional chimney cleaning, suwanee gaSchedule Chimney Cleaning with Chimney Solutions

At Chimney Solutions, we know that a dirty chimney can make you sick. We are equipped to clean chimneys whether they have Level 1, 2, or 3 creosote. Only the first level is cleaned easily with a brush. Our CSIA-certified chimney sweeps can manage any of your needs for chimney maintenance. This includes masonry repair, flashing repair, chimney crown rebuilds, chimney inspections, and more. We also offer professional fireplace installation.

To schedule an appointment, contact us online or by phone. In the Atlanta area, call 770-255-1300 today. For chimney sweep professionals in Chattanooga, TN, call 423-551-9912.

Chimney Solutions
1155 McFarland 400 Drive AlpharettaGA30004 USA 
 • (770) 255-1300
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