Healthier Alternatives to Wood Preservatives

Since the 1940s, lumber producers and manufacturers have used a chemical compound mixture called chromated copper arsenate as a wood preservative. However, the E P A, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization classify arsenic as a known human carcinogen. Manufacturing of arsenic in lumber was phased out in the end of 2003. However, many of us have this in our yards. Read here for healthier alternatives:

Along with Cedar and redwood, the following woods are considered resistant or very resistant to decay: bald cypress (old-growth), catalpa, black cherry, chestnut, Arizona cypress, junipers, black locust, mesquite, red mulberry, burr oak, chestnut oak, gambrel oak, Oregon white oak, post oak, white oak, osage orange, sassafras, black walnut, and Pacific yew. Naturally decay-resistant wood will reduce the need to apply toxic wood treatments that have known adverse health effects. FSC-certification ensures the wood has been harvested in a way that will minimize harm to forest ecosystems.

Limit the Use of Unsafe Treatments
A healthier alternative to chromated coper arsenate (CCA) wood treatment is alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ). ACQ is applied just like CCA, but it is made of 100 percent recycled copper as its main component and contains no harmful chromium or arsenic ingredients. Other less toxic chemical treatments include borates, ACA (ammoniacal copper arsenate), ACZA (ammoniacal copper zinc arsenate), ACC (acid copper chromate), and CZC (chromated zinc chloride).

Adapted from Green Remodeling, by David Johnston and Kim Master (New Society Publishers, 2004). Copyright (c) 2004 by Johnston and Master. Reprinted by permission of New Socierty Publishers.
Adapted from Green Remodeling, by David Johnston and Kim Master (New Society Publishers, 2004).

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Coleen W.
Coleen W.2 years ago

I did not know about this. Glad to know. I do know that formaldehyde is added to most wood. Or I believe that is the case. I think in the past it was only common in particle board or pressboard, but I believe it is in most lumber now available in the U.S. I am pretty sure the wood we get from China has the formaldehyd but the European Union will not allow wood with formaldehyd or not at the percentage we do. Not sure of the specifics. I know formaldehyde made my mother ill and probably affected the number of years she lived and most definitely, the quality of the last 32 years of her life. Carpet and pressboard cabinets and did not open windows. We did not know for several years after my parents moved into a newly constructed home. Believe many people have blood pressure and/or heart problems when they put in new carpet. May not realize it but it is certainly something of which to be aware.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.3 years ago


Susan S.
Paul Stephan3 years ago


Jon Hoy
Jonjon Hoy4 years ago

Thanks for the article. They already use this in ceder fencing, 4X4 post and 2X4 lumber.

K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

.5 years ago


Kim Gilbert
Kim Gilbert7 years ago

I have a question regarding the use of Copper Green Wood Preservative. I recently found out Copper Green was applied to our wood foundation. I only realized the contractor had used it by inquiring about the smell after it was already on. I am concerned about the health issues associated to exposure of Copper Green. How likely are we to be exposed if it's underneath our home in the crawl space? I can't smell it anymore, but I worry it's getting in somehow.
Thanks, Kim G
San Rafael, CA