Answer: No you really shouldn’t it is extremely unsafe.
Pressure treated wood is not safe to burn, and you should not attempt to burn it under any circumstances.
Doing so is dangerous and can potentially kill those unlucky enough to inhale the smoke coming from this type of wood.
Exposing yourself to the smoke and ash of burnt pressure treated wood can lead to all sorts of terrible consequences, ranging from respiratory inflammation to lung cancer.
Most pressure treated wood also has lethal levels of arsenic inside of it, which is incredibly dangerous to burn as well.
For these very reasons, burning pressure treated wood is illegal in most countries.
What is Pressure Treated Wood?
Pressure treated wood is normal wood that has undergone a preservation process that uses pressurized chemicals.
This process helps the wood last for a long time, but it makes it incredibly dangerous to burn.
While you should never burn pressure treated wood, this type of wood has several uses – and that’s why it’s not that hard to come by.
More often than not, this type of wood is used in construction.
It was also commonly used for crafting furniture; that’s why old chairs and tables tend to be made out of pressure treated wood (and that’s why burning old furniture is unsafe most of the time).
Here are examples of reasons wood is treated:
- Wet and Dry Rot
- Fungi and Mold
- Termites and other Organisms
- Fire Protection
These are typically Building Materials used in:
- Framing and Flooring
- Cladding and Decking
- Outdoor Furniture, Fences, Sheds, Vegetable Gardens
- Packaging and Pallets.
What Chemicals can be found in Treated Wood?
- Chromate Copper Arsenate (referred to as CCA)
- Pentachlorophenol (PCP)
- Asbestos (Fire Protective Coating)
- ACQ (Most common and recent in Residential)
- Copper Azole
- Copper Naphthenate
- Copper -HDO
- Polymeric Betaine
Firewood’s I recommend:
How to Identify Treated Wood? And what if it is not obvious.
- Colored stain or dye on the surface.
- Stamped markings on the ends.
- Slits on the surface from manufacturing.
How can I identify pressure treated wood?
Most pressure treated wood has end tags that will help you identify it as such.
Sometimes, instead of tags, you’ll find pressure treated wood with stamps.
You can pay attention to the wood’s color or smell if such tags and stamps are nowhere to be found.
This type of wood usually has a greenish or brownish color, a consequence of the preservation process.
It can also carry the smell of chemicals, something unusual in untreated wood.
There are wood testing kits available for purchase if you want to be completely sure if you’re dealing with pressure treated wood or not.
While testing the wood is a surefire way of knowing what you’re dealing with, more often than not, pressure treated wood will have a tag or stamp that will help you to easily identify it.
Why can’t I burn pressure treated wood?
Pressure treated wood is downright dangerous to burn because it’s infused with plenty of chemicals that will turn into carcinogenic substances when burnt.
The toxic fumes coming from this wood can lead to lung cancer, among other nasty consequences.
As you know, burning pressure treated wood is incredibly dangerous, and doing so is illegal in most places. You shouldn’t can’t burn pressure treated wood because it’s both unhealthy and illegal.
On a semi-related note, burning this type of wood is also hazardous for animals and every other living being that’s somewhat close to the fire.
Cooking food above such a fire can also turn your meal into a carcinogenic substance
What happens if I burn pressure treated wood?
When you burn pressure treated wood, you release the many chemicals used to preserve the wood into the air.
Both the smoke and ash that come from this wood are infused with these chemicals – and inhaling them have terrible consequences.
That’s not all. Everything that you find in the aftermath of the fire is also dangerous to handle as well.
When construction workers handle pressure treated wood, they do so wearing safety goggles and respirators to avoid inhaling the dust particles coming from the wood.
Burning it will increase the chance of inhaling said particles tenfold. It cannot be stressed enough that you should never burn pressure treated wood.
How can I dispose of pressure treated wood?
Because of how dangerous pressure treated wood is, there are laws and regulations regarding its use and how to dispose of it safely.
Said laws and regulations vary from state to state, so how to dispose of this wood depends on where you live.
As a general note, you should keep pressure treated wood away from children and animals.
While burning this wood is dangerous, so is handling it without any protection or precautions.
Using this type of wood as compost is also dangerous to do.
When you come in contact with pressure treated wood, call your local landfill or a local state agency in charge of environmental issues
The best source of information on this matter is from: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency | US EPA
My best advice is If in doubt, throw it out safely and responsibly at your local waste disposal site. Seriously it’s not cool man.
When handling treated wood I recommend you wear protective gloves to prevent getting splinters or residue on your skin (particularly if it’s wet). If you are cutting the wood and sweeping up saw dust then I would also suggest wearing a dust mask and glasses/goggles.
Remember, be sure to keep children away.
Can Burning Treated Wood Kill You?
Yes, if you inhale the toxic smoke from burning it it will get into your lungs and although it may not cause immediate harm, can eventually cause disease and lead to cancer.
You might also ingest toxins by eating food that is cooked on a treated wood fire or handle treated wood (particularly when wet) and forget to wash yours.
Other Wood Products that you should NOT Burn:
- Magazines and Cardboard.
- Chipboard and Plywood used in floors.
- Painted Wood and MDF which are used to make Furniture.
We could list a whole lot more the volatile compounds in these materials however, let’s just keep it simple by saying:
“Avoid Burning”, if cutting and handling then “Protect Yourself and the Environment”
Do not burn pressure treated wood.
To find out what is the best type of wood for your firepit please take a read of how to light firewood in a fire pit.
Please feel free to share our advice and comment below, thanks.