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Potential burn hazards: Inhaling smoke or toxic fumes

Inhaling smoke or toxic fumes can be deadly and is a serious cause of accidents at work. In fact, most deaths that are caused by fire are not as a result of burns but rather smoke inhalation.

Why is inhaling smoke or toxic fumes more dangerous than burns?

Smoke can incapacitate the body. It is easy to become overwhelmed by smoke and lose consciousness. Many of the materials which are present in the modern workplace are synthetic and produce dangerous carcinogens when they catch fire. Fire will consume oxygen in any burning building, resulting in a slow burning process, the result of which is smoke and other toxic gases.

Smoke is made up of a number of components, each lethal in its own way.


Particles are unburned and partial substances which can penetrate the breathing passages and lodge in the lungs, which can cause severe breathing difficulties. Some are actively toxic, whilst others can be irritating to the eyes and digestive systems.


Vapours are fog-like droplets of liquids which have been partially burned and can be extremely poisonous if inhaled or absorbed in any way through the skin.

Toxic gases

The most common toxic gas and one which is relatively well known by all, is Carbon Monoxide (CO). CO can be extremely deadly, even in small quantities, as it replaces oxygen within the blood stream. Another toxic gas is Hydrogen Cyanide, formed when plastics are burned, such as PVC piping, and can cause severe respiration problems. Phosgene is produced when some household materials are burned such as vinyl. Phosgene can cause severe irritation to the eyes and an itchy throat and, in some severe instances, can be fatal

If you’ve suffered an accident in the course of your work, as the direct result of smoke inhalation or toxic fumes, within the last three years and it wasn’t your fault, then you may be entitled to claim compensation. Contact Accident Advice Helpline today for more information. Our lines are open 24/7 where a friendly, professional advisor is waiting to take your call. All claims are made on a 100 per cent no win no fee basis. At Accident Advice Helpline, we aim to make every step of the claim process as transparent and efficient as possible. This is the reason why we publish handy guides like the above so that you can prevent accidents from happening in the workplace, and so that you know your rights should an accident unfortunately occur.