The effects of fumes on humans

Updated November 21, 2016

Fumes are smoke, vapour or gas and most fumes are associated with being harmful as breathing in toxic fumes can be dangerous to humans. Typical toxic fumes come from things such as automobiles and cigarettes. Long-term exposure to certain types of fumes can lead to health problems involving the lungs, brain, heart and other parts of the body.

Cigarette Fumes

Tobacco and nicotine, two of the main components of a cigarette, contain many toxic chemicals which produce fumes. These fumes can be harmful to the actual smoker and the people around the smoker. Tobacco contains alarming toxins, such as carbon monoxide and ammonia. Breathing in these fumes can cause lung cancer, which can ultimately be fatal. Smoking in the presence of children can cause ear infections and make asthma attacks worse. According to the American Cancer Society, each year about 46,000 non-smokers die from heart disease, which was triggered by inhaling fumes from second hand smoke.

Traffic Fumes

People can try their best to avoid smokers, but it can be pretty difficult to avoid traffic fumes, especially for people who live in large and populated cities. Traffic fumes release carbon monoxide, benzene, lead and other toxic chemicals into the air, states the website Pollution Issues. Individuals who inhale a lot of automobile fumes are more likely to have breathing issues, which can include coughing and asthma. Inhaling traffic fumes can also cause brain inflammation and may put people at a higher risk for brain damage and memory issues. As car technology advances, automakers are coming up with ways to make vehicles release less fumes so that they are safer for people and the environment.

Paint Fumes

Something as simple and basic as paint can give off toxic fumes. Random exposure to wet paint, such as painting a fence once every few years, isn't going to hurt a person, but people who have frequent exposure to wet paint should be cautious. Pregnant women need to be particularly careful around paint and should wear masks when exposed to wet paint says According to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, paint can contain different solvents and volatile organic compounds which can be harmful when inhaled. Lead paint is no longer sold, but may still be on the walls of older buildings. People who work in construction must take safety measures when destroying older walls.

Protective Measures

People can take protective measures to prevent inhaling an excess amount of fumes. Individuals who work in welding, construction and other industries high in fume exposure should always wear face masks, shields, goggles or any other safety gear that is available, while performing job related tasks. Those who have existing lung problems need to avoid spending extended periods of time in crowded and narrow city areas where exposure to traffic smoke is high. High exposure to carbon monoxide can be fatal. It is recommended that homes have carbon monoxide detectors in them. If the detector goes off, families must exit the home and call the fire brigade immediately.

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About the Author

Valerie Tandoi began writing professionally in 2004. She has been published in various print and online media outlets including: "New Jersey Business Magazine," "South Jersey Mom Magazine," "ASA-Dix Newspaper," "Happy Woman Magazine" and others. She also creates print and Web content for businesses. Tandoi holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Caldwell College and currently lives in New Jersey.