Is it Safe to Burn Treated Lumber?

The use of treated wood has been seen in so many applications these days. From tables and chairs, framing studs, patio flooring and a lot more, treated wood is a popular choice in woodworking. Why? It looks very much the same as with standard wood. For this reason, many people think that it is also safe to burn. So, is it safe to burn treated lumber? While burning treated lumber may not result to immediate dangers, it is not recommended to do so. Let us see why.

Treated Lumber – What is it?

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Treated lumber is wood that went through treatment, such as pressure. With pressure treatment, for example, the lumber is placed in a pressure chamber that is filled with preservatives and liquid chemicals. If you want to see whether a lumber is pressure treated, search for ½ inch splits on the entire surface, as this is the location where those chemicals were added. Treated wood typically has a dark brown or greenish hue. 

One of the most common chemicals used to treat wood is alkaline copper quat (ACQ). Copper works effectively by getting rid of fungi and insects that might cause wood rot. With this chemical, wood becomes less prone to damage caused by rot and insects, fire and water, but they can still be prone to damage caused by corrosion, UV rays and water exposure. 

Burning Treated Lumber – Why Dangerous?

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It is dangerous to burn treated lumber. By doing so, the chemicals in the lumber are not really destroyed but are released and spread with the smoke. Also, the ash of the burned treated lumber is harmful as they contain a fatal dose of preservatives. 

These chemicals may come in the form of insecticides or fungicides that are added to provide protection to the lumber against insects, fungi and other microorganisms. As such, you will be exposed to health risks by burning treated lumber. 

Because of its harmful effects on health, health organizations and other regulators warn against burning treated lumber. They state the possibility of the chemicals leeching into the skin, the soil and other surfaces, thus affecting the environment. 

Environmental Effects of Burning Treated Lumber

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Burning treated wood releases the preservatives and chemicals used to treat the lumber. On top of this, chemicals that leak to the surface may also do harm on the soil and the ground water. Because of this, it is vital to seal lumber that is pressure treated. An advantage of this lengthened durability, along with the adherence of the chemicals, thus preventing them from leaking to the surface of the wood. 

When talking about the environmental effects of burning treated lumber, among the most common results include soil and air pollution, since the chemicals are released into the smoke. Also, the ash of the burned treated lumber is also absorbed by the soil. 

Effects to the Body

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If you burn treated lumber, whether accidentally or intentionally, you may be at risk to some problems. Even though you may not expect some immediate damage, but long-term effects could include respiratory inflammation, infections on the upper respiratory tract, damage to the lungs and throat, irritation of the bronchial tubes, and the worse, lung cancer. 

Other parts may also suffer, including the stomach, intestines, the digestive tract, and the kidneys. Also, if the wood touches your skin, you may also experience skin irritations because of the presence of alkaline and copper. Some have even reported allergic reactions to boric acid. 

Burning Old Treated Lumber

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What about older treated lumber? Is it still safe to burn them? Still, the answer is no. Regardless of age, treated lumber is not safe for burning. The same batch of toxic preservatives are still present in the wood, which can still be released into the smoke once the lumber is burned. Time does not miraculously remove the chemicals in the wood. There will still be that risk of the chemicals leaking from the surface of the wood, and into the soil and water. 

Even if the wood is two decades old, the chemicals will still be as toxic as when the wood was new. Some treated lumber are treated with arsenic and copper. Arsenic is carcinogen, which means that exposure to it may cause arsenic poisoning. 

Does the Location of Burning Treated Lumber Matter?

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Some may think that because it is not safe to be in close contact with the wood and the chemicals, burning them outside would be generally safer. Still, it is not safe. Regardless of the purpose and location, you are still prone to exposure to toxic chemicals when burning treated lumber. 

With this, you can expect the same risks, such as skin irritations, breathing difficulty, symptoms similar to that of asthma, and damage to organs in the body, such as the intestines and stomach. On top of that, it really does not matter whether the process of burning is done indoors or outdoors, in the open air. The results will still be the same. Since you are working in open air, there might even be the chance of the ashes and the chemicals spreading more and causing more harmful effects to a bigger space. 

Note that it is not just the burning of the treated lumber that is toxic, but most especially the smoke that may be blown right into the air. This means that you may have to answer to whatever risks will it cause to your neighbors. 

Conclusion

Is it safe to burn treated lumber? No, it is not. Whether you are looking at burning new or old wood, and whether you are planning to do so indoors or outdoors, burning treated lumber is not safe for your health, and for the environment. The right way to get rid of treated lumber is by sending it to local landfills managed by authorities, as they know how to dispose of them. This will keep everybody safe from the chemicals used in treating the lumber. What are your thoughts about this? Leave them in the comments section below! Share this article to your friends if you like!

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