When the cataclysm hits and everything in your ‘hood burns to charcoal, a whole lot of what burns will be plastic. The bad news is that many types of plastics, when they burn, they release a whole lot of something called “dioxins.”
The American Chemistry Council explains that
The term “dioxin” refers to a large family of compounds that includes 17 compounds of particular interest because it is thought that these compounds have similar mechanisms of toxicity.
The World Health Organization describes the health risks of dioxins this way:
Dioxins are environmental pollutants. They have the dubious distinction of belonging to the “dirty dozen” – a group of dangerous chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants. Dioxins are of concern because of their highly toxic potential. Experiments have shown they affect a number of organs and systems.
Dioxins made up just some of the many chemicals buried by the Hooker Chemical and Plastics Corporation over a number of years in the Love Canal in upstate New York. Leaks from those chemicals caused significant health problems for local residents, eventually becoming one of the most notorious environmental disasters in the US.
Cigarette smoke contains dioxins, but not nearly enough to prepare you for the cataclysm.
To survive the cataclysm, get your lungs ready to breathe some seriously dioxin-laced smoke.