Respiratory Therapist/Smoke Inhalation


QUESTION: My neighbors are burning charcoal lighter fluid in their Tiki torches. This is not the correct use of this fuel. It is a starter fluid. It produces an overpowering, permeating odor which easily enters my Townhouse through tightly closed windows. It has made us very sick. They burn it at least 4 hours a night and at least 4 days a week. It has caused elevated blood pressures and pus filled lesions in my husbands throat. I asked my HOA for help under our Nuisance rule of No Unreasonable Odors, but they claim there is nothing unreasonable about what they are doing. The HOA has been made aware of the medical issues we are having, but they said that's not their problem. I have Doctors reports confirming everything, but the HOA is not interested and also refused to come down and check out the odor. On our first Doctors visit my husbands blood pressure was 220/120 and mine was 160/100. His was previously 140/90 and mine is always below the normal 120/80. We also were experiencing headaches, nausea, trouble breathing, irritated eyes and throats and more. We also had to remove the batteries from our smoke detectors because they kept going off all the time. Please let me know if this is a safe environment for us to breathe on a continuous basis as I have described. Thanking you in advance for any assistance you can provide regarding this matter.

ANSWER: Hi Rhonda,

Thank you for reaching out to me recently, you painted a very clear picture for me to understand what is going on here. I'll be honest, if it were me next time you know for a fact they are improperly using charcoal lighter fluid in their Tiki torches, I would call the local Fire Department and request them to come out and investigate it. If they see anything improper, they will be obligated to involve the police. A fire and/or police report is exactly what is needed to cover your bases in case you or your husband's health worsens or there is ever an accident involving the fire.  This will make the HOA look silly for not acting on a very legitimate health and safety concern, which in turn will make them more responsive in the future.

I hope this helps, good luck!

Larry, RRT

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QUESTION: Thank you for your quick response. I have spoken to the Fire Marshall about this and he said he has no jurisdiction in our area. I also called the police and they stated they don't enforce HOA rules and can't help me. I need to convince my HOA that this is not a healthy environment for us to be forced to endure. I own my unit and have lived here for 16 years with no violations from my HOA. The tenants in question have only rented for about a year and are avid drinkers. I cannot explain why we are being treated this way. I actually fear for my husbands life, in regards to the possibility of him having a stroke, due to his extremely high blood pressure following the burnings. In his last Doctors visit he was advised to rush to the ER if he started experiencing any symptoms of stroke. We also fear the possibility of carbon monoxide due to how easily the odor fills the unit. By the way we are both in our late 50's and the tenants are in their 20's. Because of your field of expertise could you tell me what the long term affects from this might be. Thanking you again in advance for any assistance you can offer in this matter.

I am really shocked that the local Fire Department said the matter was "out of their jurisdication." I mean seriously, what IS in their jurisdiction then? If I were a Fire MArshall and was made aware of an illegal use of a fire accelerator, I would jump at the chance to be proactive and help remedy the situation. I am speechless.  I wish I could offer more in the ways of giving you a long-term prognosis, but I am not a physician and thus just not qualified to provide that info. I would like to refer you back to your husband's primary care physician for questions and matters such as that. I hope this help!

Best of health to you,

Larry, RRT

Respiratory Therapist

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Larry W. Wical, BA-RRT


I CAN answer: ALL questions and queries related to the following topics... - Oxygen - Asthma - COPD - Bronchitis - Emphysema - Pneumonia (Viral/Bacterial) - Tuberculosis (TB) - SARS - Influenza (Flu) - Vaccines - Pulmonary Embolism - Pleural Effusion - Atelectasis - Inhalation injuries (burns, chemicals, etc.) - PFTs - Cardiovascular health - Sleep Apnea - BiPap/CPAP - Ventilators (Respirators) - Aspiration injuries - Thoracic injuries - Lung contusions - Tracheal injuries - Artificial Tracheostomy - Secretions - Prolotherapy/Regenerative Injection Therapy (RIT): A patient's experience/perspective - General health and fitness - Prolotherapy (from a patient's perspective) I CANNOT answer: Questions that vary too far from my primary scope of pulmonary and cardiovascular care and fitness. I promise to be open and honest about my knowledge of submitted topics, and will always openly provide my personal as well as professional feedback as it relates.


Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT, RCP) since 2005. I have worked primarily in the acute care, critical care, burn care and home care settings.

NBRC - National Board of Respiratory Care AARC - American Association of Respiratory Care

-All About Kids Magazine -The Clermont Sun -Cincy Sports & Fitness Magazine -Many online Fitness and Health blogs and "webazines"

- B.A. in Communication (1997) - A.A.S. in Respiratory Science (2005) - RRT license (state of OH, KY and IN) - Basic Life Saving (BLS) - Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) - Advanced Burn Life Support (ABLS)

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Currently work in the city's largest academic/research hospital.

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