Pressure-treated wood is a popular choice for outdoor projects such as decks, patios, and fences due to its resistance to moisture and rot. Yet, once these projects have reached their end-of-life, many people wonder if it’s okay to burn old pressure-treated wood. While burning pressure-treated wood is not recommended, there are several factors to consider if you still choose to burn it.
There are also other alternative ways to use pressure-treated wood. Understanding the potential health risks and environmental impact of it is important. This article will provide an in-depth look at the pros and cons of burning old pressure-treated wood so you can make an informed decision.
What is pressure-treated wood?
Pressure-treated wood has been treated with chemicals such as copper, chromium, and arsenic to prevent rot and insect damage. This method of wood preservation is widely used in Australia, as it offers a cost-effective way to protect the wood from the elements and keep it looking good for longer. Pressure-treated wood is available in a range of sizes, grades and types and can be used for many different applications. The most common types of pressure-treated wood in Australia are treated with arsenic, chromium, and copper.
Pros and cons of burning old pressure-treated wood
In general, burning old pressure-treated wood is not recommended. It is some of the most toxic wood you can burn, and the smoke produced can contain carcinogenic compounds. In addition, pressure-treated wood has a preservative called chromium that is highly toxic to humans and the environment. Because of this, burning pressure-treated wood can result in high levels of toxic compounds in the surrounding air, soil, and groundwater. Although we cannot deny that pressure-treated wood makes a good fuel source for burning in a backyard fire pit or outdoor fireplace. Many people choose to burn pressure-treated wood in their outdoor fireplaces since it burns longer and more efficiently than untreated wood.
Potential health risks
The risks associated with pressure-treated wood cannot be overstated. Therefore, it is important to exercise caution when handling such wood and ensure that it is disposed of safely and environmentally friendly.
- Exposure to wood preservatives can cause skin and eye irritation. One must wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, goggles or a face shield, and gloves to minimise exposure to wood preservatives. Wash your skin and clothes after coming into contact with the wood preservatives, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth while working with the wood.
- Inhalation of sawdust containing wood preservatives can cause respiratory irritation. When cutting or sanding these materials, it is essential to use adequate ventilation and dust collection systems.
- Burning pressure-treated wood can release toxic gases and chemicals into the air. In some cases, particulate matter can be produced during the combustion process, which can have a negative impact on air quality. In addition, burning it can release harmful gases and chemicals into the atmosphere, which can prove to be hazardous to human health if breathed in or ingested. That is why it is advisable to avoid burning pressure-treated wood as much as possible.
How to safely dispose of old pressure-treated wood
There are several ways to dispose of old pressure-treated wood. When the wood is still intact, it can be broken down into smaller pieces and used as fuel in a fireplace or outdoor fire pit, as mentioned a while ago. However, buying your firewood from your local firewood supplier is highly suggested to ensure it is safe to be burned. If you are worried about what firewood to buy, do not hesitate to ask for help from your firewood supplier.
But if you still want to use your pressure-treated wood for burning, keeping the fire small is vital to avoid spreading toxic smoke into the air. You can also use old pressure-treated wood to create artistic projects such as wood pallets or garden planters. If the wood is broken down into small pieces, it can be used as mulch in flower beds or gardens.
Final thoughts on burning old pressure-treated wood
If you have pressure-treated wood that is no longer suitable for any of your projects and needs to be removed from your property, call your local waste management authority and ask about the best way to dispose of the wood. The best way to dispose of old pressure-treated wood is to find an environmentally friendly solution that can protect the surrounding soil and water resources.