What is pressure-treated wood?

“Pressure-treated” wood is any lumber that has been treated with chemicals to improve its durability. To treat the wood, lumber is immersed in a liquid preservative and then held in a pressure chamber.

The chemicals used in this process include:

  • Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ)
  • Copper Azole (CA), and
  • Micronized Copper Azole (MCA).

These chemicals are forced deep into the wood’s surface to help reduce rot and decay, repel water and termites, and extend the life of the lumber. It can last up to 20 years in comparison to natural wood.

What is pressure-treated wood used for?

Pressure-treated wood is often used in projects like:

  • construction
  • industrial and commercial settings
  • utility poles
  • boardwalks
  • municipal projects
  • fencing, and
  • outdoor furniture.

Why is pressure-treated wood hazardous to burn?

Pressure-treated wood pile in lumber yard.

Pressure-treated wood should never be burned because of the chemicals used during the pressurizing process.

When burned, it can release hazardous and carcinogenic byproducts of the chemicals into the air. In addition to the harmful smoke, the ash will also be filled with the toxic remnants of the wood, exposing you to yet another safety hazard when cleaning up.

Exposure can lead to immediate and long-term health risks including:

  • respiratory inflammation
  • permanent irritation to bronchial tubes
  • upper respiratory tract infections, and
  • lung cancer.

Safety measures to take when working with pressure-treated wood

Take the following precautions to ensure your safety:

  1. Wear a respirator:If you’re cutting, drilling or sanding, you must use a solution that provides protection from particulates at all times. Disposable respirators are a trusted and economical choice.
  2. Wear safety glasses: It’s important to protect your eyes from the dust and any flying debris created from cutting wood with proper eye protection.

guy working in woodshop

How do you dispose of pressure-treated wood?

It’s important to dispose of any unneeded treated wood at a landfill or based on your local regulations.

If you have sawdust from a project, do not put it in with your compost or use it as mulch. The chemical remnants could be highly hazardous to the environment.

Lastly, make sure that you do not put the wood anywhere where children, pets or livestock can access it.

To ensure you’re keeping your bonfires fun and safe, only use dry, clean and natural wood. If you have doubts about the wood, don’t use it!

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Tony Guarino

National Manager - Training, Consulting & Rental

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