Poisoned wood? Poisoned furniture? Poisoned Lake?

Shouldn’t there be a warning on certain types of wood from the lumber yard?

I used to have free access to the scrap pile of a truss plant and to me it was a gold mine. I salvaged major amounts of wood, pressure treated, with which I made things like tables, work benches, repaired some houses with, book cases and always had plenty for things like camp fires and BBQ’s.

The truss plant was busily pushing the massive pile of scrap into a small lake at the end of it’s property, which annoyed the local neighbors to no end. Their property also bordered the lake and tons of wood pushed in there had stopped up the outlet which caused flooding in rainy months. Since this was a poor neighborhood of minorities and the truss plant owner was white and well politically connected, complaints fell on deaf ears.

Eventually, the place folded, leaving 10 years of truss wood rotting in the lake.

I walked into a supply store to buy wood to make book shelves with and, being thrifty, purchased planks of a heavy, green colored pressure treated wood that felt wet but was real cheap. I made my book shelves. The scrap, weeks later, I burned in my BBQ grill along with chunks of Oak branches to cook on.

Now I discover that the pressure treated wood is injected with poisonous chemicals to preserve it!! Especially the green hued type, which apparently has arsenic infused in the stuff!

Now, I’m not one who works with wood a lot. Nor am I one to go out and buy $6 planks of pine when I can get them for free, recalling when 2X4s were $1 each and straight! So, I don’t spend all of my time in a lumber supply store.

Still, I’ve never spotted a warning on any form of wood telling one that the stuff can be hazardous to one’s health.

Do all types of pressure treated wood have poisons in them?

I mean, even bags of cheap charcoal warn you not to put the ashes down as fertilizer around any vegetable or fruit plants. (Gosh knows what goes into the stuff to generate all of those heavy metal remains.)

The truss plant wood was normal in color but hard and heavy. The other wood was dirty green, heavy, hard and took months to get rid of the wet feel.

Now, if the truss wood is full of poisons, what might that huge soggy mass be doing to the water in that small lake, the ground water and what run off there is when it floods? Should I contact the EPA? Is it poisoning slowly those people living around it? Most are using ground wells for drinking water.

I wouldn’t cook over any pressure-treated wood. It’s nice if you live in a place that allows fires on the beach, so you can have a nice fire while you relax. I’d burn scrap wood there.

Incidentally, people have been known to die as a result of eating food cooked over oleander wood. (I believe I read this in a survival book published by the air force. I don’t think it was The Living Desert and You (might not be the right title) but it could have been.) A couple of kids were killed when they chewed on oleander leaves last year(?).

Regarding scrap wood: My dad collected a bunch of 2x4s from a demolished DMV building back in the 70s and built his patio from them. He even got an 8-foot flourescent light from the site. Build with it, warm yourself next to it, but be careful about eating food cooked with it.

Hi Serendipity28!

What you are thinking of is wood treated with CCA, or Chromated Copper Arsenate.

If you would like to see a Material Safety Data Sheet for CCA, try this link here:

CCA MSDS and other info on toxicity

One of the main problems with CCA wood is that when burned, it can form hexavalent chromium (think “Erin Brockovich”). I know personally a Doctoral student in Chem. Eng who is studying the effect of CCA when burned, and the chromium speciation.

I would take some small comfort from the MSDS link I put above, where it says “EFFECT OF CHEMICAL ON AQUATIC LIFE:
No evidence has proven pressure-treated wood detrimental to marine life.”

Wish I could write more now, but I gotta run. Try searching also for “pressure treated” AND “CCA” AND “wood” on Altavista or Northern Light, and you can find scads of info. But the short answer is, no, you really don’t have to worry too much about it being in the water. But it’s better if it is not, obviously.


I seriously doubt that the truss company used pressure treated wood to make trusses. Trusses are used for roofing and covered with other materials, so there is no need to use expensive treated wood for their product. Truss material is quality wood, therefore heavier than most woods, around here mostly fir and larch.

Back in the old days…(15 to 20 years ago), pressure treated wood was usually treated with Pentachlophenol or Penta for short. This stuff is NASTY! Lots of folks contracted various cancers from contact with it and it is no longer used.

The newer preservatives are somewhat better in that it is not as likely to leach out of the wood as penta.

Don’t burn any treated wood, use it only for what it is intended, contact with earth or in potentially wet situations that might rot the wood.

[Mod propeller beanie ON]

This question sounds more fact-based than opinion-based. It’ll have a better chance over in GQ, so I’m moving it.

[Mod propeller beanie OFF/]