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Is Treated Timber Toxic?

Why Choose Ethically Sourced Timber?

At the first hint of a timber fence project, every customer we speak to wants to know -  “How do I make sure my timber stands the test of time and all mother nature has to throw at it?”

The answer to that question lies with Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA).

What is CCA?

CCA is the most popular timber preservative in the world and has been around since the mid-1930s. It combines chromium, copper and arsenic. Chromium is an inert ingredient that helps the compound bond with timber and copper protects timber against rotting from bacteria and fungi. The arsenic acts as an insecticide, protecting timber from termites and borers. CCA also helps paint stick to timber and protects it from degradation due to weather exposure.

CCA treated pine is the most popular timber for fencing in Queensland, NSW and all across Australia, so it’s important to look at its safety. That’s because the “A” in CCA has historically thrown up some concerns.

Let’s clear up some myths.

CCA can be toxic in certain situations, but there seems to be a lot of misinformation out there. Here are some facts about CCA treated wood.

The main concern is arsenic may leach out of the timber and have a toxic effect on humans and animals. Arsenic is found in small amounts in your water, food and soil and in some medical applications. It is only poisonous if you ingest too much. Most scientists agree that a person would actually have to ingest the timber to take in an appreciable amount of arsenic. This is one reason that it is so effective in protecting against termites.

On the question of soil contamination, leaching has been proven to be much lower than originally thought: 0.5 ppm for fence poles or up to 14 ppm when used in garden beds. Even after 45 years, studies have shown soil contamination by arsenic from CCA treated timber is minimal. Chemicals that do leach from timber tend to bond with the soil particles.

So, what are the risks?

CCA has been severely regulated in Australia and many countries across the world. The most serious risk from CCA treated timber is when it is burned and the smoke is inhaled. Most contamination occurs when scrap is burned on construction sites. It is crucial not to ever use CCA treated timber in a confined space or in a barbecue. As long as you don’t burn it, it is safe, inexpensive and durable.

Taking all this into account, for the sake of safety, CCA treated timber is used mostly for fencing. CCA is a valuable and effective treatment that helps your timber fencing last longer, protecting it from microbes, termites, borers and other pests. The palings and rails of your timber fence can be made of CCA treated pine, which is not only easier to work with than hardwood, but it is also less expensive while still looking great. For those who have children, it is recommended that you use a paint system that is strong enough to cover the CCA and keep it from bleeding out of the timber.

At Narangba Timbers, we are a family business who been providing timber fencing for three generations. Our customers are our valued friends and neighbours. We want everyone to have all they need to make the perfect timber fence without spending an arm and a leg.

To learn more, contact us or call today on 1300 477 024.