National Pesticide Information Center



Treated Wood and Wood Preservatives

Insects and mold can damage wood over time. To prevent that damage, wood is often treated with pesticides. Treated wood is commonly used to build telephone poles, road signs and marine pilings as well as decks, play structures and raised garden beds. Several wood preservatives are registered with the EPA, each with different uses and potential risks.

Wood preservatives can extend the life of wood and reduce the need for forest resources, but proper use is important. Some preservatives can slowly leach into the surrounding soil or water. Sometimes, touching the wood can leave residue on exposed skin. Use the resources below to learn about selecting and using treated wood properly.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Make sure you select the proper type of treated wood for the job. Some treated wood and wood preservatives are restricted to specific uses.
  • Consider wearing gloves when handling unsealed treated wood to reduce exposure to your skin.
  • Consider wearing a dust mask while cutting treated wood to help prevent treated sawdust from being inhaled. Even untreated wood can irritate a person's airways.
  • Never burn treated wood. Toxic chemicals can be released in the smoke.
  • Consider using paint, varnish or some other type of sealant on treated wood as a barrier between the chemical and the surrounding environment.
  • Some wood preservatives can leach into soil and be taken up by plants. If you are planning to use treated wood close to edible plants, consider reviewing the resources below or talking to a NPIC specialist about ways to minimize the risks of treated wood.

For more information:

If you have questions about this, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email us at npic@ace.orst.edu.

Additional Resources:

USDA Forest Products Laboratory (FPL)

Last updated December 22, 2015