• We invite you to join UKWorkshop.
    Members can turn off viewing Ads!

Is using treated wood indoors safe?

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

LFS19

Established Member
Joined
21 Oct 2015
Messages
483
Reaction score
1
Location
East Yorkshire
Hi everyone,

When I first got into woodworking, I couldn’t really afford decent wood to practice with and often used pallet wood. I didn’t initially pay attention as to whether the wood I was using was treated or untreated.
I built a wine rack, a little jewellery box for my girlfriend and a few other things. I remember reading about the difference between treated and intreated wood after I’d made a few things, and then didn’t use it again after that.

I recently came across the apparent true dangers of treated wood as far as inhalation and ingestion was concerned, and safe to say I’ve freaked myself out a little...
Is there a danger that those initial projects I made are off gassing carcinogens into the air?

I know the worst of the treated wood was when they used arsenic. From the research I did, they use copper now which isn’t as bad but still dangerous.

I can’t seem to get to the bottom of it, though.
Some say it’s a huge danger not just burning it, but touching it and having it in the house Is a big cause for concern.
Others say that as long as you’re not licking it or using it as a chopping board or something, that it’s fine.

Should I be binning projects with ambiguity as to whether the wood was treated or untreated? Or should I be alright?

Thanks!
 

sunnybob

wysiwyg
Joined
11 Oct 2014
Messages
8,399
Reaction score
162
Location
cyprus
Pallets are stamped with the processes done to them. If you have removed the stamps (almost certainly) there is no way in this world you can say the wood is safe, or not safe.

Its up to you what you do about it, but I would suggest you take it all to the local recycling centre and put it in the scrap wood bin.
That is usually chipped in a large factory and made into mdf, fibre board, etc.
I certainly would not burn it in an inside fireplace, nor on a bonfire that people are standing around.
 

AJB Temple

Finely figured
Joined
13 Oct 2015
Messages
3,518
Reaction score
744
Location
Tunbridge Wells
Pallets that travel overseas must be stamped. Otherwise not. Pallets stamped MB (usually rather old now) may be highly toxic. I remain firmly of the view that pallets are ideal for shifting stuff around and that is their only sensible use.
 

LFS19

Established Member
Joined
21 Oct 2015
Messages
483
Reaction score
1
Location
East Yorkshire
sunnybob":26uhqp03 said:
Pallets are stamped with the processes done to them. If you have removed the stamps (almost certainly) there is no way in this world you can say the wood is safe, or not safe.

Its up to you what you do about it, but I would suggest you take it all to the local recycling centre and put it in the scrap wood bin.
That is usually chipped in a large factory and made into mdf, fibre board, etc.
I certainly would not burn it in an inside fireplace, nor on a bonfire that people are standing around.
I suppose what I’m asking is in the event that they have been treated, am I to get rid of the furniture I’ve made?

As you say, there’s no way of telling, but if there’s a potentiality that’s the wood is off gassing carcinogens into the air then obviously I’d get rid of the items.

I don’t have anymore of the wood; the wood in question are projects from a few years ago. I only use untreated now.

What could it have potentially been treated with? Is there more than one way the wood would be treated?
It’s difficult to know the severity of the risk. For example, one site says even touching such wood can cause the chemicals to absorb into your skin and be very dangerous; but then how many people pick up such material with their bare hands at B&Q all the time?

Cheers.
 

LFS19

Established Member
Joined
21 Oct 2015
Messages
483
Reaction score
1
Location
East Yorkshire
AJB Temple":3n2i7suf said:
Pallets that travel overseas must be stamped. Otherwise not. Pallets stamped MB (usually rather old now) may be highly toxic. I remain firmly of the view that pallets are ideal for shifting stuff around and that is their only sensible use.
What does MB mean? I know the old ones used to contain arsenic.
 

AJB Temple

Finely figured
Joined
13 Oct 2015
Messages
3,518
Reaction score
744
Location
Tunbridge Wells
Methyl Bromide, a neurotoxin and carcinogen, used as a treatment to kill wood pests and banned about 8 years ago as I recall. Pallets last years when stored. I have actually seen a pallet "coffee table" stamped with this in a shop last year.

We also have no idea what toxic chemicals have been leaked or spilt on pallets.
 

Trevanion

Greatest Of All Time
Joined
29 Jul 2018
Messages
3,775
Reaction score
572
Location
Pembrokeshire
Methyl Bromide (MB) that you used to get in old pallets (I do think some pallets from the orient still may have this coating and may even be unlabeled) is really nasty stuff, It is literally all-round poison to practically everything and should be avoided.

I know someone quite well who gradually became sensitised to treated timber over a decade of working daily with the stuff, he had to wear gloves and a respirator when working with it up because it would make him feel seriously ill if it got chemical from fairly fresh out of the factory battens on his hands or inhaled contaminated dust until the point he gave up and became a college lecturer.

EDIT: AJB is right about MB, also the fact that god knows what's been on the pallet as they get re-used for years and years.
 

sunnybob

wysiwyg
Joined
11 Oct 2014
Messages
8,399
Reaction score
162
Location
cyprus
LFS19":ftt0n49z said:
sunnybob":ftt0n49z said:
Pallets are stamped with the processes done to them. If you have removed the stamps (almost certainly) there is no way in this world you can say the wood is safe, or not safe.

Its up to you what you do about it, but I would suggest you take it all to the local recycling centre and put it in the scrap wood bin.
That is usually chipped in a large factory and made into mdf, fibre board, etc.
I certainly would not burn it in an inside fireplace, nor on a bonfire that people are standing around.
I suppose what I’m asking is in the event that they have been treated, am I to get rid of the furniture I’ve made?

As you say, there’s no way of telling, but if there’s a potentiality that’s the wood is off gassing carcinogens into the air then obviously I’d get rid of the items.

I don’t have anymore of the wood; the wood in question are projects from a few years ago. I only use untreated now.

What could it have potentially been treated with? Is there more than one way the wood would be treated?
It’s difficult to know the severity of the risk. For example, one site says even touching such wood can cause the chemicals to absorb into your skin and be very dangerous; but then how many people pick up such material with their bare hands at B&Q all the time?

Cheers.
Modern pallets are relatively safer than old pallets. Note "relatively".
You have no idea whatsoever what you have used, You have no idea how old the pallet was before you chopped it up. Only an "NCIS" type pathology lab could determine if, what, and in what quantities there are toxins in your home.

I repeat my advice, get rid of it. And if there are small children leaning on anything youve made, get rid of it tonight.

Its your choice.
 

Woody2Shoes

Impressive Member
Joined
5 Jan 2015
Messages
1,925
Reaction score
284
Location
Sussex UK
I think that the difficulty with things like pallets is that they could be made anwhere (we know that China, where a lot of pallets possibly start life, almost certainly has less strict and less strictly enforced environmental rules). I have a shipping container made in China and the plywood floor has been treated with extremely nasty organic chemicals.

In the UK/mainland Europe CCA (copper, chrome, arsenic) preservative, creosote and most of the substance that are 'known' to be really nasty have been restricted/banned, but there are many very nasty organic chemicals about which very little is known (they are much newer to science and are less well researched chemical compounds as far as safety goes and who will pay for that?) and which are therefore assumed to be safe, used as insecticides and fungicides - many of them are definitely suspect.

Personally, I wouldn't want to spend too much time in close physical contact with wood treated with some of these chemicals - even if I knew what they were, and had confidence that science had been done to 'prove' their safety.

A good test is the nose - usually these chemicals are in a spirit-based solvent, so cutting into them will liberate a kind of white spirity whiff.

A coat of varnish and/or paint should ought to very much reduce the risk from such chemicals though.

SO - I wouldn't panic too much about what you've made so far (other than maybe adding an extra coat of varnish/paint), BUT I'd avoid treated timber for such projects in future.

Cheers, W2S
 

Mike Jordan

Established Member
Joined
21 Apr 2016
Messages
695
Reaction score
80
Location
Derby
I suggest a common sense approach to any treated timber is - if it kills other forms of life what will it do to me if small doses are taken over long periods?
Many timbers are toxic in themselves and need to be treated with respect and suitable protection. I would never agree to use accoya or any other treated timber to make anything. No doubt the makers and suppliers will give an airy assurance of safety but I for one don't believe it!
If you need a good example just look up Polychlorinated biphenols PCB and the problems related to their use. It's in the food chain, you are consuming it. !!
 

Woody2Shoes

Impressive Member
Joined
5 Jan 2015
Messages
1,925
Reaction score
284
Location
Sussex UK
Mike Jordan":1ddp50jk said:
I suggest a common sense approach to any treated timber is - if it kills other forms of life what will it do to me if small doses are taken over long periods?
Many timbers are toxic in themselves and need to be treated with respect and suitable protection. I would never agree to use accoya or any other treated timber to make anything. No doubt the makers and suppliers will give an airy assurance of safety but I for one don't believe it!
If you need a good example just look up Polychlorinated biphenols PCB and the problems related to their use. It's in the food chain, you are consuming it. !!
I agree with all the above except the point about Accoya - it's not so much treated, as transformed, by what is effectively a pickling process. Accoya smells a bit unpleasant but is one of the safest materials you could use, I think.
 
Top