Health & Fire Safety

All sorts of nasties are living in your chute, smelling it up and may cause sick building syndrome.


Sick Building Syndrome

Recent studies show at least thirty different biological and bacterial growths can occur on the inner surface of garbage chutes and within the confined air space of the collection room, including Salmonella, E. Coli 0157, Dysentery, and Legionella.*
* Maurice Baum I.H., Environmental Research & Restoration, Inc.

Your trash chutes are breeding grounds for any of the following bacterial and fungal pathogens: Salmonella, E. Coli 0157, Shigella Dysentery, Legionella, Listeria Mono Cytogenes, Aeromonas Hydrophilia, Clostridium Perfringens, Aspergillus Group, Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, and Staphylococci Aureus. This is bad news!

Anytime trash chute doors are opened, these germs and bacteria become airborne carrying all kinds of illness and infections to building occupants.


Avoid Sick Building Syndrome

Keeping your building's trash chutes clean is so important! Here is more information from the health experts:

According to Environmental Research & Restoration, "It could very well be that the lack of trash chute cleaning is adding to the high occupancy rate of the medical physician's office."


From Analytic & Biological Laboratories:

"The intent of this study was to determine what types of organisms were present in the physical surfaces of the garbage chutes what organisms were airborne and the efficiency of a unique cleaning system that was applied to the contaminated surfaces. For those individuals who by virtue of their age might be in jeopardy owing to a compromised or deficient immune system, the exposure to such pathogens, as well as opportunistic pathogens, might compromise an immediate health problem. A question now arises concerning those cases of Salmonella or pulmonary disorders whose etiology was unknown in the past...

"Of the organisms recovered the pathogen Salmonella was the most predominant. This organism if contracted by handling or ingestion can cause considerable malaise as it has been involved in areas of Typhoid and food poisoning. In severe cases and if untreated it could be fatal ... Because yeasts and molds are airborne the incidence of inhalation by exposure is always present. There are numerous pathogenic molds that will under certain circumstances inhibit the respiratory tract of man and depending upon the species become life-threatening."


From Ambient Laboratories:

"The risk of illness increases only when bacteria that can produce disease are selectively amplified in an environmental reservoir and these organisms or their products become airborne and successfully reach the breathing zone of susceptible humans. ... The presence of some of the above fungi causes allergic reactions, infections, and respiratory problems in sensitive individuals if elevated concentrations of spores become airborne."


From the "Sun-Sentinel":

"Tests found two to three dozen types of bacteria and fungi -'a who's who of what's in the bacterial world' – is the way one state epidemiologist Juan Suarez put it. And in one [garbage] chute's updrafts they detected Salmonella a potentially dangerous pathogen associated with rotten meals. Suarez, like Flenniken, suspects air currents inside chutes may increase the risk of exposure if something harmful is lurking inside."


From a Building Environment Report:

"To what degree trash chute bacteria can affect building occupants during brief exposures depends on ventilation maintenance and pollutant pathways. The risk is great if chutes become clogged, tenants improperly dispose of certain items such as chemicals or animal waste, and trash chute air is allowed to enter the building's ventilation system. ...Bacteria found in [garbage] chutes have the potential to cause building-wide illness... and steps need to be taken to ensure bacteria is contained and abated in the trash chute."

Chute Fire Risks


Reduce Potential Fire Hazards

Grease, sludge and grime build-up, faulty trash chute doors, and clogged air vents are all genuine threats. Properly functioning trash chutes and chute doors reduce the risk of fire.

When gooey stuff builds up, it prevents the chute doors from closing and can even ignite. If during a fire, the trash chute doors do not close properly, a wind tunnel effect is created funneling the fire up and down the building. A safety-approved chute must have:

  1. A fire-rated chute discharge door at the compactor or bin with a fusible link that is triggered by heat and shuts off automatically in case of fire.
  2. A 1½ hour fire-rated, positive latching, self-closing chute intake door on each floor.
  3. A sprinkler at the top and bottom floors and on every other floor in between.
  4. An air vent mounted on the roof to eliminate any gas build up in the chute.


Doors on trash chutes are a vital link in fire safety

If the trash chute doors do not close or latch automatically, your building is in violation of fire and life safety codes. The potential of loss or damage to property and life is greatly increased.

When chutes, doors, and compactors are not maintained on a regular basis, grease, sludge, and grime build up in tracks of the doors damaging the hardware and preventing them from closing. This flammable collection of goo covering the inside of the chutes and doors has been proven to ignite at temperatures as low as 180 degrees. Tenants are known to put everything, including burning cigarettes, down trash chutes. A quality trash chute is designed to reduce the risk of fire spreading up the building from the collection bin below. If the doors do not close and latch automatically a flash explosion can occur during a fire creating a wind tunnel, greatly increasing the severity of the fire.


If a fire breaks out elsewhere in the facility, and there is a faulty chute door, there is still a potential hazard

If the temperature rises dramatically and/or the integrity of the chute is compromised, the chute spreads the fire up and down the building. Fire sprinklers become totally ineffective at this point. If you think it can't happen, don't. In recent years, two fires of this exact nature occurred, one in New York and one in Chicago, where seven people died. The trash chutes did not cause the fire, but they caused it to become totally out of control. The chutes had not been properly maintained and were found to have non-functional doors. Seven lives and extensive property were lost, all for the lack of chute door maintenance.


Never replace chute intake doors with after-market wood or sheet metal access doors

Chute access doors are used to gain access to the chute shaft for maintenance purposes. They should never be used instead of a proper, fire-rated chute intake or discharge door. Unfortunately, access doors are sometimes used as a stop-gap measure until a service technician can be called to come out and replace it with the correct door. Use of a door other than a correct fire-rated door bearing a UL label allows for the potential damage or loss to property and life.

Also, building managers or owners in trying to save and cut costs, without realizing the legal and life safety issues involved, may have one of the maintenance staff install a wood door. This stop-gap measure is illegal, however, and using one can be considered negligent. If you have any wood doors on your chutes it is illegal!

The Chute Doctor only installs doors that are UL approved for chutes.


Chute Door Certification

Building codes now require all chute doors to be inspected and certified annually, and the Chute Doctor provides this service. Please see the Fire Door Inspection & Certification page.