Can You Burn Painted Wood?

Last Updated on February 8, 2022 by Grow with Bovees

It’s much easier to burn that huge pile of wood that’s been in the backyard forever, than to load it up and truck it down to the dump.

Unfortunately, chucking it out may be the better option.

When wood is painted it’s best not to use it to burn in your fire pit because it may produce toxic fumes and harmful chemicals.

And if the wood has been around for a long time, you could be burning lead-based paint, which would be very dangerous. Lead paint was used up until the 1970’s.

In some States, it is illegal to burn painted wood.

These laws prohibit the burning of wood that has been treated with any chemicals as well as burning any building materials that have been painted.

Painted wood can release toxic substances when burned.

Burning treated wood releases harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, and those chemicals can potentially be inhaled and enter your lungs. Neither is going to be a good fit for you or for the environment.

Types of Old Wood

You may have a variety of types of wood around your house.

You may have the remains of an old deck or a fence piled on an unattractive heap in the backyard, or you may have dismantled an old building and stacked the painted wood or stained wood in the garage.

You might even have a few unused lumber pieces that you no longer want to use. Particle board or pressure-treated wood, a type of wood composite, is also very common, and is used for many things.

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Even though it seems like a good idea to burn these in your fire pit, the dangers of doing so outweigh the supposed ecological benefits.

Chemically Treated Wood

Old lumber that has already been used outdoors in decks or fences is often treated with chemical preservatives. Even when the color fades, burning the wood will introduce the toxic chemical into the atmosphere, which is not good.  

Painted or Varnished Woods

Wood that is covered in paint or varnish or oil is equally dangerous to burn and should not be burned outside or in a wood stove.

Milled Wood Logs

Burning untreated wood or unpainted wooden logs may not raise environmental red flags, but it isn’t good for the wood stove.

Each of the processes involved in harvesting lumber introduces corrosive chemicals to its wood fibers. For example, many wood logs are floated in saltwater and retain salt in their fiber.

Health Hazards Around Burning Painted/Treated Wood.

A  roaring bonfire or a comfortable inside fireplace might be hugely impressive or romantic, but it can bring with it a number of health problems and issues, most usually mild but sometimes very dangerous. Breathing in these chemicals poses serious health risks, and is simply not worth it.

Pre-existing Health Conditions

People with existing heart or lung conditions have a low tolerance to smoke.

The particles and chemicals that are in the smoke can trigger an asthma attack and difficulty breathing for people who already suffer from bronchitis and/or emphysema.

Individuals with existing heart problems can suffer heart attacks or premature death.

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Health Issues

Smoke can cause respiratory problems, including allergic responses such as sneezing and cough, chronic bronchitis, and asthma. Exposure to wood smoke can also cause burning eyes and headache, sore throat, excessive phlegm, tight chest, and sinus problems. Prolonged exposure to smoke is also a risk factor for permanent structural changes in the lung.

Particles Released

Tiny particles released into the air when burning painted wood can cause short-term and long-term lung problems. They are small enough to be absorbed by your bloodstream and make their way into your heart. These particles are usually invisible to the eye because they are about one quarter of the diameter of human hairs.

Chemicals released

Toxic chemicals are when you burn wood, including formaldehyde, benzene and acetaldehyde. Some of these chemicals are linked directly to cancer, but not necessarily through wood smoke.

Not only are these substances harmful when inhaled, but they can also enter the body through the fine particulates released when burning.

What Toxic Fumes Derive From Burning Painted Wood?

When you burn painted wood, it is usually quite dry and the paint usually makes it even more flammable. So when you use a heap of painted wood to make a backyard fire, it will go up in multi colored flames, and the burning wood will die down quickly, without leaving much cinders or coals.  

Apart from it burning down fairly quickly, painted wood also has the tendency to release chemicals, these chemicals create toxic fumes when burned. These toxic fumes contaminate anything they land on and if the wind is howling, it will take these toxins and disperse them all around the neighborhood.

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Some of the contaminants you might find in painted wood are:

  • Chromium
  • Lead
  • Mercury
  • Titanium

All these chemicals have potential side effects, so you should be careful.

Some can be felt immediately, whereas others may only kick in later on. Many of the toxins listed above are considered to be cancer causing.

Lead paint was banned in the late 1970s, but that doesn’t mean some of the old paint in your backyard doesn’t have some 1974 paint on it.

The side effects of breathing in lead when you burn wood painted with lead paint, are numerous and not entirely comfortable.

High blood pressure and pain in the joints are two of the most obvious effects felt in adults. You can also experience a variety of other symptoms, including headaches, abdominal pain, trouble with memory and concentration, and more.

So, now that you know the answer to the question, can you burn painted wood, we hope you will come to the right decision.