Aim: The purpose of the article is to expose threats to health and life for occupants of residential properties, resulting from incorrect use of and constructional defects in, chimney systems, which operate on gravitational principles in negative pressure. An analysis of statistics associated with accidents caused by leaking chimneys was performed and examples of chimney construction defects were identified, which may be a source of danger.

Introduction: Chimneys are commonly encountered elements of construction found in residential properties. Their purpose is to facilitate the release of combustion products from heating appliances (smoke and gas flues) and to ventilate rooms (ventilation chimneys). The proper functioning of flues and chimneys has a direct impact on health, safety and often life of residents. The article identifies most frequently encountered threats during exploitation of both in residential buildings. The paper, in the main, concentrates on the causes of accidents and identifies preventative measures. Moreover, the paper presents and discusses incident statistics dealing with injuries to humans, which are the consequence of inappropriate exploitation of chimneys and flue systems. It is appropriate to mention that in prevailing climatic conditions, the majority of present day accommodation is equipped with flue systems operating on gravitational principles. The article should be of interest to all who have responsibility for the safety of buildings and their users.

Methodology: An analysis of defects found during chimney and flue systems exploitation was performed by an examination of incidents, which occurred in buildings during years 2005 – 2014, in Poland. It deals with issues of incorrect design, construction or use of chimneys and flue systems.

Conclusions: Flue systems are construction elements, which have a direct bearing on the safe utilisation of buildings. Examples presented in this paper illustrate how incorrect operation of flue systems dangerously impacts on the health and life of users. With regard to aforementioned threats, chimneys should be correctly constructed and properly maintained. To ensure the proper and safe functioning of flues and chimneys, apart from correct installation, it is important to ensure efficient functioning of heating appliances and adequate inflow of outdoor air.

Keywords: chimney, carbon monoxide poisoning, chimney fire, ventilation

Type of article: review article