When plastic is burned, it releases a number of toxic chemicals into the air. These chemicals can be absorbed by the lungs and cause a variety of health problems.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what happens to your lungs when you inhale burnt plastic. We’ll also discuss the health risks associated with this type of exposure.

Lung Damage Caused by Inhaling Plastic Fumes

When you inhale plastic fumes, you’re exposing yourself to a number of toxic chemicals that can damage your lungs and cause a variety of respiratory problems.

burnt plastic fumes

Signs and Symptoms

Inhaling burnt plastic can lead to several unwanted signs and symptoms, including:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Throat irritation
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

These symptoms can be short-lived or may persist for a longer period of time after exposure. The effects can be life-threatening in severe cases.

What is Plastic Made of?

Plastic is a synthetic material that’s made from a variety of different chemicals. When these chemicals are heated, they can release harmful toxins into the air.

Most plastics are made from the following synthetic chemicals:

  • Bisphenol A (BPA)
  • Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
  • Styrene

These chemicals can be released into the air when plastic is burned. When inhaled, they can cause a number of health problems.

What Chemicals are Created when Plastic is Burned?

There are a number of different chemicals that are released when plastic is burned. These chemicals can have a variety of adverse health effects, including:

  • Benzene – a carcinogenic chemical that can damage your lungs and cause respiratory problems
  • Dioxins – highly toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and other health problems
  • Particulates – tiny pieces of plastic that can lodge in your lungs and cause severe respiratory problems
  • Toluene – a neurotoxic chemical that can damage your nervous system and cause respiratory problems

Each chemical has its own unique set of health risks. The mixture of chemicals present in plastic fumes can magnify the adverse effects on your health.

How to Protect Yourself from Burnt Plastic Fumes?

If you’re exposed to burnt plastic fumes, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself. Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of exposure:

  • Avoid burning plastic whenever possible. If you must burn plastic, do so in a well-ventilated area.
  • Avoid inhaling the fumes from burning plastic by wearing a mask or respirator.

These simple steps can help to reduce your exposure to the harmful chemicals released when plastic is burned.

recycle plastic fumes

What to Do if You Inhale Burnt Plastic Fumes?

If you inhale burnt plastic fumes, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. The sooner you’re treated, the better your chances will be of avoiding long-term negative effects.

In severe cases, the inhalation of burnt plastic fumes can be life-threatening. If you experience any signs or symptoms of respiratory distress, seek immediate medical attention.

FAQ

How Bad is Inhaling Burnt Plastic?

Inhaling burnt plastic can be bad for your health. It can cause a number of respiratory problems, including coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

In severe cases, it can be life-threatening, which is why it’s important to seek medical attention if you’re exposed to burnt plastic fumes.

Can Inhaling Burnt Plastic Kill You?

Inhaling burnt plastic fumes can be fatal in severe cases. This is especially true if the exposure is to a large amount of fumes or if you have a pre-existing respiratory condition.

Repetitive exposure can also lead to long-term health problems, such as cancer. If you’re exposed to burnt plastic fumes, it’s important to seek medical attention from a qualified medical professional.

Why is Inhaling Burnt Plastic Bad for You?

Inhaling burnt plastic is bad for you because it can expose you to a number of harmful chemicals.

These chemicals include benzene, dioxins, particulates, and toluene. Each of these chemicals can cause a variety of health problems, ranging from respiratory problems to cancer (in severe cases).

Does Inhaling Plastic Fumes Cause Brain Damage?

There is no definitive answer to this question; however, some studies have shown that exposure to certain chemicals released by burning plastic can cause neurological problems, including memory loss and impaired learning ability.

More research is needed in this area, but it’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid inhaling burnt plastic fumes whenever possible.

brain damage illustration

Is Plastic a Carcinogen?

Multiple studies have found that certain chemicals in plastic can make their way into the foods and beverages that we consume. This leads some researchers to believe that long-term exposure to plastic can have carcinogenic effects on the human body.

More research is needed in order to definitively say whether or not plastic can cause cancer. However, it’s clear that inhaling the fumes from burning plastic is not good for your health and should be avoided whenever possible.

Where Should You Be Worried About Inhaling Plastic Fumes?

The inhalation of burnt plastic fumes can be dangerous, regardless of where it takes place. However, there are some environments where the risks are greater.

For example, if you work in a factory that burns plastic or if you live near a landfill where burning plastics is common, you’re at an increased risk of exposure.

In these cases, it’s especially important to take precautions to protect yourself, such as wearing a mask or respirator.

Final Thoughts

Inhaling burnt plastic fumes can be dangerous to your overall health. These fumes can contain a number of harmful chemicals that can damage your lungs and cause long-term respiratory problems.

If you’re exposed to these fumes, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself and seek medical attention immediately if you experience any signs or symptoms of respiratory distress.

If you found this information to be helpful, we wrote a similar article on the negative effects of inhaling concrete dust that I think you’ll find helpful. Thanks for reading!

Medical Disclaimer: This content is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with a physician with any questions that you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you read in this article. We strive for 100% accuracy, but errors may occur, and medications, protocols, and treatment methods may change over time.

References

The following are the sources that were used while doing research for this article:

  • Gao, Hui, et al. “Bisphenol A and Hormone-Associated Cancers: Current Progress and Perspectives.” National Library of Medicine, Medicine (Baltimore), Jan. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4602822.
  • Velis, Costas A., and Ed Cook. “Mismanagement of Plastic Waste Through Open Burning With Emphasis on the Global South: A Systematic Review of Risks to Occupational and Public Health.” National Library of Medicine, Environ Sci Technol, June 2021, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34003007.
  • Wu, Di, et al. “Commodity Plastic Burning as a Source of Inhaled Toxic Aerosols.” National Library of Medicine, J Hazard Mater, 15 Aug. 2001, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33887570.
  • Shemwell, B. E., and Y. A. Levendis. “Particulates Generated from Combustion of Polymers (Plastics).” National Library of Medicine, J Air Waste Manag Assoc, Jan. 2000, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10680369.
  • Campanale, Claudia, et al. “A Detailed Review Study on Potential Effects of Microplastics and Additives of Concern on Human Health.” National Library of Medicine, Int J Environ Res Public Health, Feb. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7068600.