What are the health effects of ash?

  • Ash may be irritating to the skin, nose, and throat, and may cause coughing. Fine particles can be inhaled deeply into lungs and may aggravate asthma and make it difficult to breathe.
  • People with asthma or other lung diseases, pregnant women, children, and older adults should not be in the vicinity while cleanup is in progress because it is easy to stir up ash. Do not allow children to play in ash. Clean all children’s toys before using. Clean ash off pets and other domesticated animals, and do not allow pets on contaminated sites.
  • AVOID direct contact with ash. If you get ash on your skin, in your eyes, or in your mouth, wash it off as soon as you can.

Additional Information

  • Fires often result in large amounts of ash, other debris (broken glass, exposed electric wires), and contaminated dust, which may contain toxic substances such as asbestos, arsenic and lead. If your child is exposed to any of these substances, wash the child with soap and water as soon as possible and call Poison Control for further advice.
  • Cleanup efforts may expose you to ash and other fire decomposition products that may cause irritation and other health effects. Ash contains tiny particles (dust, dirt, soot) that can be deposited on indoor and outdoor surfaces and can be inhaled if the ash becomes airborne during cleanup. Ash from burned structures is generally more hazardous than forest ash.