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Combustion By-Products

Category Fire Investigation Testing
Test Combustion By-Products

EMSL Fire Related Testing Program

 Combustion-by-products (Char, Black carbon/soot, Ash)

Purpose of the test

This test is designed for analysis of fire residues for presence of analytes of interest (char, black carbon/soot and ash). The results of this test offer the client valuable information related to the extent of damage produced by a fire at a location (residential, industrial or wildfires). These results can be used for cleaning assessment and/or insurance claims.


Surface sampling:

  • Alcohol prep wipes (recommended surfaces: TV’s computer displays, plastic surfaces, furniture, windows, mirrors, internal surfaces of refrigerators; avoid painted surfaces)

  • Microvacuum: 25 mm 0. 45 micron or 0.8 microns pore size MCE cassettes (recommended surfaces: main living areas, from top of interior door frame, window frame, from corners of floors, door tracks, attic areas)

  • Tape lifts (see note 1) (recommended surfaces- same as for alcohol prep wipes)

Air sampling:

  • PVC pre-weighed cassettes (for NIOSH 5000 only)

  • Zefon CSI cassettes 1

  • Zefon Air-o-cells 1

  • 25 mm 0. 45 micron pore size MCE cassettes

Levels of analysis

We offer a diverse combination of analytical levels depending on the complexity of the methods used in the analysis and tailored to the client’s specific needs. The analysis levels are listed below, the analytical complexity level and the overall value of the package increases from level 1 to 4.

Level 1

Char + Soot1 + Ash

Level 2

Char + Soot (confirmation level) + Ash

Level 3

Char + Soot (confirmation level) + Ash+ common components of environmental dust (such as fibrous glass, biological material, cellulose, synthetic fibers, pollen, quartz, calcite)

Level 4

Char + Soot (confirmation level) + Ash+ common components of environmental dust (fibrous glass, biological material, cellulose, synthetic fibers, pollen, quartz, calcite) + Elemental composition of soot, char, and ash by SEM/EDX + pH (to determine overall corrosivity of the dust)

Level 1 is a screening level, very affordable and valuable for quick and easy assessment of the overall degree of contamination.

Levels 2, 3 and 4 offer analysis using the best analytical methods for confirmatory presence of all the analytes of interest (including soot confirmatory analysis based on ASTM D6602); the results are legally defensible.


The concentration of analytes of interest in bulk samples is derived by Visual Estimation Technique (VAE). The technique estimates the relative projected area of a certain type of particulate in a mixture by comparison with data derived from analysis of calibration materials having similar texture and particulate content. NIOSH 5000 is a gravimetric method. Counting technique is used for Zefon and MCE air sample cassettes.

The analysis is performed by analysts trained in advanced techniques of particles identification. Additional consultation regarding interpretation of the results and regulations is provided free of charge by senior scientists. Fast turn-around times can be provided: same day and week-end analysis available. Our senior scientists have experience in litigation support and expert witness testimony.

1: Soot analysis is limited to presumptive analysis level only; TEM analysis for confirmation per ASTM D6602 cannot be performed on tape lifts, AIR-o-cells CSI cassettes samples. . In order to resolve the submicron size and the aciniform morphology of the particles confirmatory analysis by Transmission Electron Microscopy (TEM) is needed.

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