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What to Do About Pressure-Treated Wood

What to Do About Pressure-Treated Wood

Dear Annie,
I have pressure treated wood in my garden. Should I be concerned? If so, what do I do about it? –Sam, GA

Dear Sam,

Yes, sadly, you do need to be concerned about it. Hopefully your garden beds are for flowers and not food. Even then you need to be concerned about arsenic leaching into the surrounding soil. Pressure-treated wood is mostly treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), made of chromium, copper, and arsenic. Having been used since the 1940s, there has been increasing concern since the 1990s that the lumber will exude toxic amounts of arsenic.

If you have raised beds for vegetables I’d start from scratch and remove the pressure treated wood and call your local hazardous waste pickup about removing it. Even sealing in the wood (see below) doesn’t feel safe enough to me for food. All the soil needs to be removed from the old beds and replaced with new. Replace the wood itself with something non-toxic, such as recycled plastic lumber or Timbersil.

For flower beds and decks, seal the stuff in using a water-based penetrating sealant every six months. The EPA recommends either an oil or water-based penetrating sealant every year, but I’d not suggest an oil-based sealant unless the oil was from soy or other plant and not petroleum, so as not to pollute the area further, and to reseal every six months to be on the safe side. With arsenic readily found in pesticides, we don’t need additional sources of arsenic in our own homes and gardens. Read about the EPA’s sealant studies to help you determine what option is best for you.

Make sure not to burn CCA-treated wood as the fumes would be full of arsenic. Also make sure to use a mask if you need to cut it.

A good resource about arsenic-treated wood hazards and alternatives is found on the healthybuilding.net.


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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on anniebbond.com, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

15 comments

+ add your own
5:50PM PDT on Jul 2, 2012

It's troubling, so many people still don't know this.
Thanks for this.

2:51AM PDT on Jul 2, 2012

My husband wanted to use pressure treated wood to make our raised vegetable beds but I wouldn't let him. I'm glad that I stood my ground.

12:58AM PST on Dec 10, 2011

Thanks for the article.

3:10PM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

Thanks!~

3:09PM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

Thanks!~

2:23AM PDT on Sep 29, 2011

Thanks.

8:13AM PDT on Sep 21, 2011

Anyone can make their wood better than pressure treated. There is a product you can order online at: www.Scientificep.com.
The product is Perma-Wood and there is a short video explaining the product and how it works. It removes the water from the wood in 48 hours. It allows the solution to bond with the water and subsequently water proofs the wood from the inside out. It further performs as a termiticide and a fungicide that provides additional protection to the wood.

5:27PM PDT on Apr 14, 2011

Thanks.

11:33AM PDT on Apr 14, 2011

Again Big Business lies to us. I would use natural cedar for these projects, or river rock.

1:04AM PST on Dec 3, 2010

Thanks for the info.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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