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Major Health Risk Burning Treated Lumber

Scouts and Scout leaders – Before you decide to burn the scraps of a wood project, look for treated lumber.

The disposal of treated lumber by burning has serious health and environmental risks. In fact, it’s illegal to burn in all 50 states.

Treated wood is also called CCA lumber. CCA is an abbreviation of Copper, Chromium and Arsenic. A single 12-foot x 2-inch x 6-inch board has enough arsenic to kill 250 adults.

The fastest way to release these chemicals is by burning them. A single tablespoon of ash from pressure-treated wood is lethal. Arsenic is a silent killer. It has no smell or taste to warn you it’s around.

Treated lumber commonly comes in an OD green or a dark brown color. It also has half-inch-long splits on all surfaces of the lumber where the treatment was injected. If you are unsure if a piece of wood is treated, do not burn it.

The Journal of the American Medical Association did a study on the effects of burning pressure-treated lumber. They found that a family burned treated lumber to heat their house during the winter. The following months the family reported their hair fell out, they suffered severe nosebleeds and crippling headaches.

The parents recalled several cases of blacking out for hours and disorientation. Both children suffered multiple seizures. It even killed the houseplants and the fish. Eventually, these symptoms were traced back to small amounts of ash dust around the house.

The best way to dispose of treated lumber is to take it to your local landfill and ask them where to dispose of it.

It is perfectly fine, and encouraged, to burn construction scrap lumber at scout functions. Just double-check that what you are burning is actually pure lumber and make sure it is not treated.

As a personal experience, Scout leader Bill Otto worked in Alaska during the summer of 1987 built and remodeled schools for native people (Eskimos). The natives would gather the scraps from the jobs and burn them in their sweat huts (saunas).

The smoke that was generated went out the chimney and, due to a low-pressure system, pushed the smoke downhill and suffocated a sled dog team. After the first occurrence, the construction crew buried the lumber in hopes of deterring them from burning it, but they still dug it up to burn. When a second team was killed, the natives stopped burning treated lumber.

Bill Otto.


“Dangerous to Burn Treated Wood.” Dangerous to Burn Treated Wood. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2016.

James, Ryan. “The Problem With Pressure Treated Wood.” The Problem With Pressure Treated Wood. N.p., 11 July 2015. Web. 16 Sept. 2016



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