Using common sense and standard safety equipment (personal protection and wood-working machinery) applies when working with any building products. Gloves, dust masks and goggles are appropriate for use with all woodworking. Here are a few key points specific to treated wood:
- Pressure-treated wood is not a pesticide, and it is not a hazardous product. In most municipalities, you may dispose of treated wood by ordinary garbage collection. However, you should check with your local regulations.
- Never burn treated wood because toxic chemicals may be produced as part of the smoke and ashes.
- If preservatives or sawdust accumulate on clothes, launder before reuse. Wash your work clothes separately from other household clothing.
- Treated wood used for patios, decks and walkways should be free of surface preservative residues.
- Treated wood should not be used for compost heaps where free organic acids produced early in the composting process can remove the fixed chemicals. It is, however, safe to use for growing vegetables in raised soil beds. If, after reading this, you are still concerned, place a layer of plastic sheet between the soil and the treated wood wall.
- Treated wood should not be cleaned with harsh reducing agents since these can also remove the fixed chemicals.
All wood preservatives used in the U.S. and Canada are registered and regularly re-examined for safety by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada’s Pest Management and Regulatory Agency, respectively.
Wood preservation is not an exact science, due to the biological – and therefore variable and unpredictable – nature of both wood and the organisms that destroy it. Wood scientists are trying to understand more about how wood decays to ensure that durability is achieved through smart design and construction choices where possible, so that as a society we can be selective in our use of preservatives.
Comparing treated wood to alternative products
A series of life cycle assessments has been completed comparing preservative treated wood to alternative products. In most cases, the treated wood products had lower environmental impacts.
Click for consumer safety information on handling treated wood (Canada).