The increased use of wood-burning stoves means that more and more people want to be supplied with chopped wood, preferably from cost-effective sources. But before you snap up an offer of a significant amount of cheap wood, it’s a good idea to know what wood is toxic to burn UK-wide.
What wood is toxic to burn UK?
The easiest way to tell if wood is safe or toxic to burn is to see if it has signs of being treated. Most types of untreated British wood are relatively safe to burn (though read on for some exceptions). However, treated wood has typically been soaked in chemicals which can then be released into your home when the wood is burned.
Natural wood to avoid
Smoke is known to be toxic to human health. Fine particles in the smoke can be breathed in, and in greater amounts – even if you have a closed wood burning stove – can be harmful both immediately and over time. Any wood that produces a lot of smoke can be considered toxic and should be avoided.
Laburnum is poisonous
With its beautiful golden locks of flowers in summer, laburnum smells enticing but is extremely poisonous. Burning laburnum produces a nasty smelling smoke that contains dangerous toxins. The fumes and smoke could linger in your home, and breathing it in could cause lung damage.
Poplar and elder are unpleasant
Both poplar and elder have thick, black and acrid smoke as their signatures. While poplar doesn’t set alight easily, elder does, and it burns fast without much heat. Both smell terrible.
Softwoods tend to smoke hard
Resinous softwoods like spruce, larch and pine produce a lot of smoke, but not much heat. This increases the particulates in the air in your home, which is hazardous to your health, and as an added unpleasant bonus, the resin can leave sticky or oily residues in your wood burner.
Unseasoned – also known as wet – wood is wood that hasn’t been dried sufficiently. The moisture it contains will create more smoke when burnt, and the smoke from wet wood tends to contain greater quantities of harmful particulates. Some woods require a longer drying time than others, so at times, you may find you have a mixture of wet and dry wood in your pile.
Treated wood to avoid in your wood burner
The main two types of treated wood you may occasionally be offered for burning in your wood stove are poles and planks that are no longer needed in industry, or furniture wood.
Wood used in industry
Wood is used in all kinds of industrial areas, including farm fence building, marine construction and even for railway sleepers. However, to give it a longer life, it will have been treated with a chemical cocktail.
These chemical mixtures break down when burnt, and the smoke can be very poisonous. One example is CCA – chromated copper arsenate – which produces a form of arsenic when burnt.
Furniture is often painted, coated or varnished, and it may have been soaked beforehand in an anti-fungal solution. Not only will you get more smoke than you might have expected, but the smoke will also contain a variety of chemicals. Some very old wood furniture may even have been painted with lead-based paint, so you then run the risk of releasing lead into the air in your home.
Modern furniture is often made from glue-based board, chipboard or hardboard, and should not be burnt as wood.
Hold back from burning treated wood
The good news for everyone who wants to keep their wood-burning stove topped up safely throughout winter in the UK is that most types of British wood are relatively safe to burn. Unlike the United States, which abounds with poison ivy, sumac and oleander, the UK does not have many native toxic tree species that emit poisonous smoke, and hardly any that would turn up in a chopped woodpile. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on what you get in a large delivery of wood, however. Even if you don’t recognise what natural wood is toxic to burn UK-wide, if you think some of your wood has been treated, hold back from burning it.
Wood burning stoves are safer than open fires because they keep more of the smoke and fumes behind a closed door. Join thousands of people already enjoying the comfort of a wood-burning stove and submit an enquiry for a free quote at Caledonian Stoves today.