Table of Contents
- What Does Treated Wood Mean?
- Is Pressure-Treated Wood Considered Hazardous Waste?
- Why Is It Important to Dispose of Treated Wood Properly?
- How Do You Dispose of Treated Wood?
- Keep Your Disposals Safe and Compliant With Hazmat School Training
Treated wood uses a chemical preservative process to increase its longevity and make it resistant to the elements, pests, microorganisms and fungi. While this is great for users, especially in outdoor applications, the preservatives often contain chromium, creosote, pentachlorophenol and even arsenic.
Treated wood waste often comes from demolition sites. After demolishing a building, the interior and exterior wood must be disposed of properly. The chemicals in the treated wood are known to be toxic or carcinogenic, and safety is paramount.
Natural wood or wood with a painted or surface finish does not qualify as treated wood or treated wood waste.
What Does Treated Wood Mean?
Treated wood is natural wood treated with chemicals to protect it from natural degradation and increase its longevity. While the chemicals used to treat the wood are hazardous in certain circumstances, you can find treated wood in many applications.
Construction workers must always use and dispose of treated wood with care. Some guidelines for working with treated wood include:
- Wear a dusk mask when cutting or working with treated wood, and ensure you don’t inhale the sawdust.
- Keep treated wood away from where it can come into contact with drinking water for people, pets or livestock.
- Avoid using treated wood where it will come into contact with beehives or human and animal food.
- Refrain from using treated wood waste for mulching and composting.
- Wear goggles to protect your eyes when using a power saw or similar cutting device.
- Ensure you remove all traces of treated wood waste from a site before eating or drinking.
Is Pressure-Treated Wood Considered Hazardous Waste?
Pressure-treated wood was officially classified as hazardous waste on Aug. 31, 2021, in California. According to the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), there are different types of treated wood.
While the chemicals prolong the lumber’s life, which helps conserve trees and grow sustainable forests, numerous chemicals are highly toxic. Classifying treated wood waste as hazardous puts regulations in place to ensure adequate care is taken in their disposal, so the chemicals don’t leach into the soil or water table, causing health and environmental problems that could take years to resolve.
How Do You Recognize Treated Wood Waste?
You can recognize treated wood by its appearance. Some signs to look out for when determining if you have treated wood waste include the following:
- End tag: This tag on the end of the wood categorizes the preservatives and chemicals used in the treatment and appropriate use sites.
- Stamp codes: The manufacturer responsible for treating the wood may have stamped it for easy identification.
- Surface indentations: The chemical treatment process may leave indentations in the wood. They are uniform in appearance and are often easy to identify.
- Perimeter staining: If you cut through treated wood, you’ll notice it’s stained around the perimeter.
- Discoloration: Treated wood waste may be green or dark brown in appearance.
- Odor: Wood has a recognizable smell. If there is a chemical smell to the wood in question, it’s likely to be treated lumber.
If the chemicals in treated wood waste aren’t correctly disposed of, they can contaminate soil, surface water and groundwater or harm any living creatures. Common sources of treated wood include fence poles, decking, sill plates, pilings and guard rails.
Why Is It Important to Dispose of Treated Wood Properly?
The most crucial reason to dispose of treated wood properly is that the chemicals can be dangerous. Let’s have a look at the most common chemicals found in treated wood:
- Arsenic: This chemical is well known for its poisonous nature, and exposure to large amounts can cause severe illnesses and death. Exposure to smaller amounts of arsenic can result in many different diseases, such as cancer or skin lesions. Treating wood is the predominant use of arsenic today.
- Copper naphthenate: You can identify when there are copper components in treated wood waste, as it’s accompanied by discoloration and often turns green. Large amounts of copper can lead to several health issues, including liver and kidney damage.
- Chromium: People can be exposed to chromium through the air, food and water. It can cause asthma, liver and kidney damage, respiratory cancer, and other health complications. The severity of the symptoms depends on the amount and type of exposure.
- Pentachlorophenol: Only certified vendors can access and use pentachlorophenol. It can harm the kidneys, liver, nervous system, blood and lungs.
- Creosote: Creosote is among the best-known wood preservatives. It’s made from numerous chemicals and can cause respiratory symptoms, sun sensitivity and skin damage.
Organizations looking to dispose of treated wood waste have countless reasons to do so correctly, and the disposal process must comply with regulations. Qualified professionals are best equipped to deal with potentially harmful substances, as they train their staff to handle waste products safely.
How Do You Dispose of Treated Wood?
First and foremost, do not burn treated wood. Doing so will release the chemicals into the air and immediate environment. Wood treated with creosote can be burned, but only in an industrial or commercial incinerator, under state and federal regulations. Other disposal methods include the following:
- Permitted solid waste landfills.
- Treatment, storage and disposal (TSD) facilities.
- Reuse for common treated wood applications.
- Verifiable facilities that treat or recycle treated wood waste — this does not apply to arsenic-treated wood.
Disposing of treated wood waste in landfills can also result in toxins leaking into the surrounding earth, so landfills with protective liners are more eco-friendly. Besides the abovementioned methods, there are minimal other options for the safe disposal of pressure-treated wood, although professionals are exploring new safe and viable alternatives.
Individuals looking to dispose of treated wood need to comply with different regulations than businesses but still take great care in the disposal process. For homeowners, the best way to dispose of treated wood is to take it to the nearest transfer station and place it in the non-clean wood pile so that it can be disposed of in line with regulations.
Keep Your Disposals Safe and Compliant With Hazmat School Training
Training is critical in ensuring worker safety and compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations. Hazmat School can provide your business with hazardous waste and OSHA safety courses for various industries. Whether you need training for your employees or you’re an individual looking to further your training, we can help make you regulation-compliant.
If you want to learn more about getting the certification you’re looking for, contact Hazmat School today.