Neighbor burning treated wood

My neighbor is bad crazy. He burns treated wood to supplement his heat. He also burns non-treated wood. I know that he is putting himself and his wife at a pretty serious health risk by doing this but I’m wondering if he is putting my family at risk as well. We have small children.

I’m not sure if there is anything I can do to stop him but before I start confronting a crazy person I’d like to know if I have valid reason for concern. I have sent an email to my county’s health department to see if there are any regulations against what he is doing and to get their take. I am at least partially concerned about retaliation should I try to do anything. As an aside his daughter is a fugitive from the law and he is likely helping her evade capture. These aren’t great people.

Most of what I could find online talks about the risks to the people in the house where the stuff is being burned. I found some stuff about elevated levels of bad stuff on the surface of neighboring houses.

Also, can anyone recommend any testing of soil / house / blood, etc. that could help guide me?


I don’t know what kind of treated wood he is using, but you could tell him that some treated wood will dirty his chimmney and be a risk for a house fire.

Whether that matters or not to him is another question.

He’s probably putting you at more risk than himself.
Most of the toxins (Arsenic and Chromium) are going to go right up the chimney…

I assume you mean pressure treated wood? If so, the biggest concern is with chromated copper arsenate, which contains arsenic, copper and chromium. Burning releases these chemicals. Children are more vulnerable to toxins in general, so are at higher risk. The flyash from burned treated wood can contain lethal levels of arsenic.

It is illegal to burn CCA wood in the US (and Canada). Your local health authority should intervene.

Re: Peters HA, et al: Seasonal exposure to arsenic from burning CCA wood. JAMA

Aside from Health regulations, what about Enviromental regulations? Is there no limit on how much pollution a private chimney can emit?

The US EPA regulates residential wood burning:

I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m curious as to how you would go about proving what he’s burning without trespassing on his property?

If he says it’s not, and you say it is, what then? If the county is going to send in a health inspector what’s to keep the neighbour from removing and pressure treated lumber from his yard first?

Thanks for the replies. I know he is burning it because he asked if he could have the debris left over from replacing a fence to burn. He also brings in loads of debris and it sits in his front yard, gets smaller and smaller and then another load comes in.

I don’t know what exactly he is burning though. I think he burns whatever he can get for free. Some of it looks like it was stained, some not.

I’ll continue to follow up with my county health department.

Uhmmm. Sorry to hijack the conversation about burning treated wood…but why the hell haven’t you called crimestoppers and turned these folks in?

Oh the police are completely aware of what is going on with the daughter. The only reason we know that the daughter is on the lam is because a couple of deputies were up here looking for her. While not the sharpest knife in the drawer she is doing a fairly good job of evading capture. We had a bounty hunter come to the house a week or two ago looking for her. The bounty hunter was really looking for her girlfriend because the girlfriend skipped on an 8K bond. The neighbor’s daughter walked away from work release and I think is considered small potatoes compared to the girlfriend. I’m pretty certain they will get caught before long.

I’m imagining people reading this thread think I live in a rat hole neighborhood. Funny thing is this is actually a wonderful neighborhood except for these guys. We have become great friends with many of our other neighbors. Just about everyone else in the 'hood are middle aged professional types, many with kids.

Anyway, no word from the county health department yet except that my questions have been forwarded to an outdoor air quality person.

I’d make sure the police know about the complaint. They may wish to encourage the health dept to investigate, and maybe give them some hints about what to “notice” as they walk through the property/home.

They’re burning treated wood? And harboring a fugitive?

Yeah, I’d let the police know. They’ll be glad to see what other illegal activities these people are up to in the course of their investigation.

I’ll be very surprised if you can get any county officials to act based on this;

“I don’t know what exactly he is burning though.”

She probably looks quite different after all her hair fell out.

I did some checking on the burning of pressure treated wood awhile back when Ike knocked down so many fences in our area. Apparently the ash left over is pretty nasty too. What’s your neighbor doing with that?

I don’t know. My guess is he is dumping it in his back yard.

Yeah, I also have my doubts about what they can do. I do expect them to take it seriously though. We live in an area where any wood burning is restricted on certain days. They would probably investigate just regular wood burning based on a complaint on one of those days if I called. Then they would see pretty plainly what he is burning.

I’m not an expert in this sort of thing which is why I asked here about it and why I’ve asked the county. I’m certain that he is burning demolition wood scraps and that some of them are stained. Some are also plain looking 2x4s. Wether any of it is CCA treated I have no way of knowing. I have absolutely no doubts that he would burn it in a heartbeat even if it was. His pile of stuff is completely visible from the street so maybe someone that knows what to look for would be able to tell right away.

Really the best outcome I can hope for is that they will say they don’t think what he is doing is putting anyone else in danger. I don’t expect that outcome but I’m still hoping for it.

Another neighbor is following up with the police on the fugitive and to try to get them to come up to our neighborhood a little more frequently. They hardly ever drive through as it is a very quiet dead end street up a quite big hill. Even the people in question are quiet. As far as I know none of the daughter’s crimes happened in this town.

If the health department decides to take any action I plan on alerting them to the fact that for their own saftey it might be a good idea to have a deputy come along.

It would seem that we aren’t going to be able to get a definitive answer to my OP unless we know exactly what he is burning. The direct answers to my OP were about CCA treated wood and I had actually already found the links provided. The very scary link from the AMA was about the effects of the people in the house. But it is very scary to me all the same.

Hopefully the health dept. will be able to give me piece of mind that I shouldn’t be too worried or they will be able to rectify the situation. I’ll post what they say because obviously there is some interest here.

If anyone on here is an expert in the field I’d really like to get their take on it. Especially re: any soil testing or tests that I should have done on my kids to see if there are any dangerous toxin levels.


Well the county health department can apparently not do much of anything about it. They completely agreed with me that it was a bad idea but they have no regulations that they can enforce about what he burns. They can enforce a rule that makes it illegal to burn on certain days that are occasionally flagged because conditions make it especially bad for pollution reasons. He burns stuff everyday.

What they did do was sent a letter to a him and a bunch of other houses surrounding him. The letter was generic about what should and shouldn’t be burned and when it is not allowed. I expect this to do no good whatsoever but maybe it will educate him a bit and perhaps it will provide a way to talk to him about it without it seeming like we are “attacking” him. I’m not optimistic.