Pressure Treated Wood

Hazards and Alternatives

What you need to know about pressure-treated wood:

  • The most common “pressure-treated” lumber contains Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA), a chemical mixture of three pesticide compounds: chromium, copper, and arsenic.
  • The lumber industry voluntarily stopped manufacturing CCA-treated wood by December 31, 2003.


  • All three of the chemicals in CCA are hazardous to human health and the environment because they do not break down into harmless substances, but remain toxic.
  • CCA is listed in most states as a carcinogen, which means it causes cancer.
  • Some studies have shown excessive amounts of arsenic in the soil around structures made from CCA-treated wood.
  • CCA-treated wood should not be used for cutting boards, counter tops, bee hives, playgrounds, landscaping, near human or animal food, near open water or drinking water sources.
  • Do not burn CCA-treated wood. Burning CCA-treated wood in open fires, fireplaces, stoves, or residential boilers will cause toxic compounds to be emitted into the air and to settle in the ash as well.
  • Do not use CCA-treated wood for wood chips, mulch or compost because arsenic may leach into the ground.


  • Sawing or sanding of CCA-treated wood should be done outdoors and on a drop-cloth, so that sawdust can be collected and properly disposed of in a lined landfill.
  • Wear gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask when machining CCA-treated wood to protect from splinters, flying debris, and inhalation of dust and wood particles.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap after completing work with the CCA-treated wood and prior to eating, drinking or smoking.
  • Remove any clothing with CCA-treated wood dust on it and wash separately.

Disposal Options

  • CCA-treated wood should only be disposed of in a lined landfill, not an incinerator.
  • For disposal options in Franklin County, Massachusetts, call the Franklin County (Massachusetts) Solid Waste District at 413-772-2438 or e-mail at
  • Do not dispose of CCA-treated wood in a backyard compost pile, brush pile, chipping pile, or trash incinerator.

Alternatives to Using CCA-Treated Wood:

Alternatives to CCA-treated wood include: wood treated with Ammoniacal Copper Quaternary (ACQ), recycled plastic lumber and wood/plastic composites, cedar, other wood, and reused lumber.

ACQ-treated wood contains no EPA-listed hazardous compounds. It meets the same standards as CCA-treated wood for above ground and ground contact for both the International Conference of Building Officials (ICBO) and the American Wood Preservers Association (AWPA).

Recycled plastic lumber and wood/plastic composites are extremely durable and require little maintenance. Plastic lumber can be sawed or drilled, and it also resists graffiti. Plastic lumber works best in low-load structural applications, such as decking, walkways, benches, and tables. It is not intended for load-bearing elements, such as posts, joists, and beams. Plastic lumber typically costs more to purchase, but when maintenance, repair, and replacement are factored in, plastic wood may cost less than traditional lumber.

Cedar is a naturally rot-resistant wood.

Other types of wood, such as spruce, may be used to avoid chemicals but might have to be replaced sooner. Spruce may last 10 years in an area with moderate precipitation and few wood-boring pests.

Used lumber can be found at some building material reuse centers. Contact EcoBuilding Bargains in Springfield at 413-788-6900.

This information was produced with funding from the USDA Rural Utilities Service.