Consider Environmental Impacts Of Preservative-Treated Wood Used In Construction

Consider Environmental Impacts Of Preservative-Treated Wood Used In Construction

A house can last a lifetime. If another family moves in after you move out, that’s at least 100 years or more of constant use. Regular maintenance should be a concern of any homeowner, but what about the construction process that took place long before you came into the picture? Today, preservative-treated wood is being used as a way to combat deterioration due to wood destroying insects or fungi.   Preservative-treated wood has a long history of extending the service life of houses and other industrial products such as poles and crossties.  Some metal-based preservatives have been closely examined for possible adverse effects on human health and the environment.

All preservatives used in the treatment process are periodically evaluated for registration by the EPA and some have been voluntarily withdrawn for residential applications such as chromated copper arsenate (CCA).  Therefore, some older and since-banned materials do end up in landfills. At issue today is the environmental impacts of preservative-treated wood, alternatives to landfills and developing metal-free preservatives.  My research has shown that properly treated CCA wood leaches an insignificant amount in service.  For more information on some of these efforts please visit and click on publications.

The industry has been proactive to fund research efforts that remove and reuse heavy metals from decommissioned preservative-treated wood.  CCA can be effectively removed from spent wood using a process known as microwave-assisted liquefaction.  The process is a closed loop, economical, and results in no waste streams.

Meet the Author

Dr. Todd Shupe is the President of Wood Science Consulting, LLC. He is a well-recognized expert on wood forensics, wood preservation, wood decay and degradation, and wood species identification. He has a broad background in new product development, quality management, and marketing and sales in both the public and private sectors. For more information please visit

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