What makes wood hazardous?

May 14, 2022Article

What makes wood hazardous?

May 14, 2022Article

Why is some wood classed as hazardous waste? Here, we look at some of the chemical contaminates and wood treatments that can cause health issues, and mean waste wood must be disposed of by professionals.

Wood that has been treated with solvents

Solvents are any substance that has dissolved something and suspended it, resulting in a solution. Usually this is a liquid but can also be gas or even some solids.

The most common solvents when it comes to wood treatments are paints, paint thinners, varnish, glue and adhesives and wood stain.

Solvents can cause problems to health, especially if inhaled or ingested. Some solvents can cause neurotoxicity, damage to kidneys and liver and even cancer.

Wood that has been treated with preservatives

There are different ways of preserving wood. Some methods include drying or heat-treating wood. The alternative is chemical preservatives which kill off mould, rot and infestations.

Common preservatives in waste wood include chromated arsenicals, creosote and pentachlorophenol. All of which can cause major health issues including damage to nervous systems and to skin.

Wood that has been treated with reactive systems

A reactive system usually means when two or more things bond or ‘react’ with each other. For example wood bonding with a chemical or two different chemicals bonding to form a protective layer over wood. Examples include gloss, lacquer or epoxy resin. These can cause dermatitis and affect asthma.

Reactive systems come in a variety of forms, some of which are naturally derived and others of which are synthetic. It’s very hard to tell from the finished product if it is potentially hazardous or not. So generally, all wate wood that has been treated this way should be thought of as potentially hazardous.

Wood that has been contaminated

Untreated wood can easily absorb chemicals. For example wooden pallets thar are used to transport or store chemicals can be contaminated if the chemicals they are close to spill or leak.

Other example might be wooden beams in buildings that have asbestos in or railway sleepers that can absorb pollutants from engines and machinery.

For a lot of waste wood the biggest danger is not knowing what substances the wood has been contaminated with and so the health risks are unknown.

But how can wood treated with these things be hazardous?

If solvents, preservatives, reactive systems or other chemicals are spilled or make their way into soil then they can pose a wider health risk by making their way into water sources or even into the atmosphere.

Leaching is when rain water washes the chemicals from wood into the ground, contaminating the soil.

Vapor intrusion is when chemicals in soil or groundwater migrate into the air and are then breathed in.

Chemicals can also be released from waste wood if burned in a non-controlled environment.

If these chemicals make their way into water sources then they can be ingested by animals or absorbed by plants, making their way into the food chain.

This is why it’s important that hazardous wood is disposed of correctly. It should not be sent to landfill where it can contaminate soil, and it shouldn’t be burnt unless the smoke can be filtered to make it safe.

Wood from construction and demolition sites, old furniture, industrial wood or any wood that has been treated with one of the above should be disposed of with a properly licensed wood handler who will deal with it correctly and safely.

Find out how Twinwoods Heat and Power can help with your wood disposal needs by getting in contact today.