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Pressure-Treated Wood

Should I or Shouldn’t I Use It?

A brief look at the pros and cons of pressure treated wood and some of the alternatives

By Gregory W. Lemley, adapted by the Ecology Center

November 3, 2000

Pressure Treated Wood: Should I or Shouldn’t I Use It?

Of course, no one can answer this question but you, but it might help to look at the facts.

Pressure treated wood is 30 to 40% cheaper and last twice as long as redwood. However, the rest of the picture is not so pretty.

By far the most common type is designated PT CCA (Pressure Treated Chromated Copper Arsenate).The publication Environmental Building News (March 1997) has called for a phase-out of PT CCA. This is largely due to concerns related to its disposal.

Pressure Treated Wood is poisonous to insects, fungus, and bacteria. It is also poison to humans and other life forms. It is listed by the State of California (and most other states) as a carcinogen. The basic elements involved are copper, chromium, and arsenic. All are hazardous to human health and the environment and do not break down into harmless substances.

The companies that produce this product claim that the compounds are chemically locked to the wood itself and therefore not a hazard to human health and the environment. However, they don’t tell us that these compounds and particularly the arsenic are released in highly toxic levels when the wood is burned. It should never, ever be burned!

There is also evidence of arsenic leaching from CCA-treated wood into the surrounding environment. Leaching of arsenic from PT CCA wood in raised garden beds has been found to be limited to about 6″, but that 6″ is permanently contaminated. It means that you should not grow vegetables in that strip nor can you turn that soil into the rest of your garden. It also means that that soil is still contaminated long after you and your garden are gone. Not a good legacy!

This leaching also means that arsenic salts are continually coming to the surface of the wood where they can easily be transferred to you or your children by contact. Try teaching your 6-year old to keep his or her hands out of their mouth or for that matter not to eat dirt!

Only small amounts of these compounds are taken up in vegetables grown in contaminated soil. These amounts are generally considered too small to be immediately toxic. However, the effects of repeated exposure to these low levels are not well understood.

The disposal of this product is by far the more serious environmental problem. It should be placed in lined landfills (itself not a great solution) but construction waste is often too bulky and not allowed in these special landfills. The fact is that it often ends up in unlined landfills where it is subject to eventual leakage into the environment at large.




via Pressure-Treated Wood « Fact Sheets « Ecology Center.

The type of wood in the products we use could change our own lifespan. Plastics and glues used in cheap pressed wood are toxic and strong.  We need to be conscious of the long term affects a cost effective product may hold. Affordable may not be a price you want to pay for with your health. It is weird to me that a company needs to advertise the fact that they don’t use toxic materials, I’d like to think that subject has been considered by everyone.

The Cabinet Center – Custom Cabinets, Pleasanton, San Carlos + San Francisco Bay Area.

A good bookcase could last a lifetime, and if needed it should be built to last. A family home may require a bookcase that is fit to hold a heavy load, but be careful about where you put it because the floor of your house may not be equipped to hold the same weight your bookshelf does.


The Weight of Bookcases & Damage to Floors |