July 14, 2021

Is Pressure Treated Wood Safe for Vegetable Gardens?

Pressure treated wood is wood treated with a chemical compound called creosote, which is a wood preservative that is blended with mineral oil. Creosote is clearly labelled on pressure-treated wood and can be found in home improvement stores. While some people are concerned about the potential health risks associated with this chemical, or the environmental risk of abandoned waste barrels, others see this as a commonly used wood preservative.

What is pressure treated wood

It is treated wood that becomes more durable and less susceptible to molds, insects, and water damage. Pressure-treated wood also becomes fireproofed depending on the type of primer used. The process uses high pressure to inject a preservative into the wood.

The preservative is a chemical that is resistant to insects and moisture. Pressure-treated wood survives harsh conditions outdoors. The air inside the wood is replaced with chemicals so that it becomes resistant to decay. It becomes easy to cut and lightweight. 

There are three types of pressure-treated wood for different applications. Above ground are woods that are resistant to insects and rot. Ground contact is wood that retains the chemicals used for safety to ground contact. 

Marine lumber is resistant wood for docks and seawalls. The process involves saturating milled lumber with chemical preservatives. The lumber comes in pine or cedar. 

The chemicals reduce the vulnerability of the wood to insects and rot. The wood is left wet so that you coat the wood with paint. Pressure-treated wood is a time-sensitive project. Pressure-treated wood removes a greenish color that is not appealing to the eye. 

Paint gives it color and style. Chemicals make the wood fire retardant. Multiple types of pressure-treated work in different projects. 

Is it safe to use around vegetables?

Although pressure-treated wood comes with safe properties, it is not safe from vegetables. It contains arsenic, lead, and other contaminants that treat the wood. The substances leach into surrounding soils in quantities that affect vegetables. 

You are allowed to line vegetable planters using plastics to protect vegetables. There is no evidence if the plants are safe or hazardous. They could be hazardous without any signs. The best way is to have vegetable beds made of untreated wood. 

The preservatives work for the good of your beds, but they have a risk of contaminating your vegetables. Alternatives such as decay-resistant wood like redwood and red cedar are safe to use. 

Raised beds mount the soil and sloping the sides. However, they need checking since they allow the absorption of small amounts of chemicals from the plants. 

You do not know the level of absorption. Pressure-treated wood is not safe for the environment as a whole. There are human health risks from the garden that avoid the wood. 

Apply a sealer of oil around the treated wood so that chemicals do not bleed from the wood. To avoid the chemical reaching the plants, use a liner you place between the wood that makes vegetable beds and the soil. That reduces exposure of food crops to the pressure-treated wood. Plant the vegetables away from the walls of the garden bed.

The best alternative to Pressure treated wood

There are two viable alternatives of wood that are safe to use on your vegetables. These are the ACQ wood and decay-resistant wood. ACQ wood is treated with chemicals that do not contain arsenic and chromium (Source). 

The chemicals included have been verified by the EPA board to be non-toxic for human consumption. Pressure-treated lumber that does not have toxic chemicals is ideal for vegetable gardens. 

Even if you can still raise the pressure-treated wood, chemicals still leach into the soil. Decay-resistant hardwood has a long life, but it still gets affected by weather conditions. It will not last as pressure-treated lumber, and it is not affordable. 

Either way, you need treated wood, and the only way to make it safe is to go for treated lumber that contains economically friendly chemicals. Pressure-treated lumber with non-toxic chemicals is durable and user-friendly. Speaking of alternatives here’s another one: Alternatives To Pressure Treated Lumber For Raised Beds.

Is it safe for children?

Pressure-treated wood is not safe for kids and precautionary measures have to be taken by elders to avoid contact. Kids are exposed to the treated wood without knowing due to the dust created during construction. 

That is why it is not supposed to be used on playgrounds and play structures. The production of arsenic is dangerous for kids. The treated wood is a danger to the family from the parents to the kids.

How long does it last

Pressure-treated wood lasts for forty years and more depending on the climatic conditions of the area, its uses, and how well it is maintained. The forty years do not come with signs of decay. 

Flooring lasts up to teen years due to high traffic on the floors. Apply water repellent sealers so that our wood lasts longer every year. Use a mildewcide cleaner when you notice any sign of mildew growing on your wood. 

How do you dispose of it?

You should not burn pressure-treated wood since it is dangerous. Burning the wood releases toxic materials that are hazardous to your health. You might not be affected instantly, but with time you will start to show signs. 

It comes with chest-related diseases that are chronic. The smoke and ash affect people, plants, and pets. Homeowners have to take their pressure-treated wood to their local landfill or transfer station and place it in the designated location. Contractors and other utilities have to contract with a bulky waste landfill or take the wood to an out-of-state wood burner facility licensed to burn the treated wood. 

There are local regulations in states that advise you on how to deal with pressure-treated wood. Some laws allow the arrest of unlicensed users who burn pressure-treated wood. There is municipal trash where you place your wood and if you have no idea, contact your disposal agency. 

Where to buy it

Pressure-treated wood is available in both online shops and local shops. Look for material from high-quality and trusted manufacturers. The wood is rated by the amount of chemically infused in it per cubic foot of wood. 

The information is on the tag attached to the lumber’s end-grain. Pressure-treated wood with 25pounds of preservative per cubic foot of wood does not last long in oil contact. That is why you have to go for 40 pounds. 

Consider other benefits that come with pressure-treated wood such as resistance to damage from termites and fungal decay. There is wood treated using waterborne copper that protects the wood from exterior applications. 

Know the projects you will be running before you purchase. Buy your wood from reputable suppliers. You have wood of different sizes that you choose from. 

David D. Hughes
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