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Fume results when a clay or glaze decomposes during heat-up in the kiln and forms a vapor. These vapors can deposit as very tiny particles on walls and other surfaces. The individual particles are so small that they can be inhaled deep into the alveoli (air sacs) of your lungs.
The most common fumes associated with kiln firing are sulfur and it is easy to identify from the odor. Many clays contain it as do fuels. Some metal oxides volatilize and form fumes (notably copper, zinc, manganese) that can lead to metal fume fevers of different types. Manganese in particular can be quite toxic.
By Tony Hansen