Use and disposal of creosote-treated wood

Creosote or pitch oil is a coal tar distillation product that is an efficient and toxic wood preservation chemical. Creosote is used for industrial impregnation of items such as railway sleepers and telegraph poles. Creosote-treated wood is dark brown and has a characteristic odour. Creosote consists of hundreds of organic compounds, most of which are detrimental to the environment or health.

The use of timber treated with creosote is restricted. The following applies to creosote-treated timber:

  • it is only intended for professional and industrial use
  • it may not be supplied to consumers
  • it may only be used in overhead wire structures (telegraph poles and other utility poles) in permanent ground contact, railway sleepers and bridges or other similar load-bearing exterior structures.

Reclaimed creosote-treated wood is classified as hazardous waste, so it must be brought to a waste treatment site for separate collection. Burning it in household fires is prohibited.

Use of creosote-treated wood is prohibited:

  • indoors
  • in toys
  • in playgrounds
  • in parks, gardens or other outdoor recreational areas where skin can repeatedly be exposed to creosote-treated wood
  • in garden furniture
  • in structures that are in contact with food plants or animal feed or in packaging materials.

 Harmful effects of creosote:

  • can cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation
  • may cause allergic skin reactions
  • may have carcinogenic or mutagenic effects
  • is not absorbed permanently in wood but dissolves and evaporates into the environment
  • the characteristic odour remains in creosote-treated wood throughout its usable life
  • the components of creosote may contaminate groundwater and be detrimental to soil and aquatic organisms. Therefore, timber impregnated with creosote should not be used or stored near wells or in groundwater areas.

Typically, the use of creosote-treated wood is monitored by the municipal environmental protection authority. The areas of responsibility for the authorities supervising compliance with the chemicals legislation are presented on the chemicals surveillance webpage. (linkki oikealle sivulle)


REACH Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 Annex XVII

The Government’s (annulled) Decision 1405/1995, according to which the supply of creosote-impregnated timber to consumers, as well as its use indoors, in contact with food plants or animal feed and in playgrounds and other outdoor recreational areas where repeated skin contact exposure is possible, has been banned since 20 June 1996

The Government’s (annulled) Decision 8/2003, according to which use in garden furniture and toys has been prohibited since 30 June 2003