Thinking about can you burn painted wood? Renovation is always a very stressful, laborious, and expensive process. So it’s no surprise, that many home-owners might think of cutting some corners. For example, what’s the best way to get rid of all the old painted wood that might’ve accumulated in your backyard after all the remodeling? Can you burn painted wood? Read on to find out.
Burning painted wood
Burning painted wood sure will save you some time and work but is it safe? Can you burn painted wood?
The answer is a resounding “NO”.
Burning painted wood or any other chemically treated wood is not safe for your health. Pretty much all sorts of paint contain toxic chemicals.
So when you burn painted wood the harmful toxins are released into the atmosphere and can later be inhaled by people.
Some people might say that there are certain precautions you should take to minimize the risk. For example, it should be OK if you wear a respirator, and burn wood in calm and windless weather.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Of course, you might try to protect yourself or your family members by using special gear but what about your neighbors and other people in the community? They will not appreciate all the toxic smoke contaminating the area.
Even when there’s no wind the toxic fumes can travel miles and miles away from the burn pile. Moreover, long after the wood fire burns out the harmful chemicals might stay in the air for days.
Some miniature solid particles of wood and paint might end up on your clothes, your newly renovated house, on the ground. So every time there’s some wind or rain the toxins will be lifted up and carried around.
Is it legal to burn your wood?
Let’s suppose you’re still willing to take the risk of burning the wood. You’re a critically thinking and responsible adult after all, why should you take orders from some article on the Internet?
Yeah, I cannot convince you to care about your health and safety, or about the health and safety of people around you. But there is an institution that might just convince you to think twice. It’s called the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
According to DNR’s air quality rules, burning of treated wood is prohibited. This includes both open burning and burning in a fireplace or wood burner. The penalties vary from state to state but we’re about fines ranging from $500 up to $25,000. If the fire gets out of control or in case of repeated violation the perpetrator may even face jail time.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the terms used in these regulations.
What qualifies as open burning?
Open burning means that the smoke is released directly into the atmosphere without passing through a chimney or stack.
So it means that you cannot burn treated wood in a fire pit in your backyard.
Burning painted wood in your own fireplace is also illegal. Furthermore, it is a lot more dangerous for your family and especially kids.
Treated wood means the wood covered with some kind of chemically-active compound. This includes wood finishes, paint, primers, etc. Most of these products contain toxic chemicals, which are quite dangerous even if you don’t burn them. That’s why experts recommend painting in a ventilated area while wearing a respirator.
Moreover, some professionals advise against burning printed paper in your fireplace. The ink will also produce toxic fumes when burned.
This volatile stuff can quickly fill your entire premises, and end up in your bloodstream.
So it’s totally fine to burn unpainted wood and untreated wood. However, finished wood, wood pallets or even junk mail, old magazines, and postcards are off the table.
How harmful is it to burn treated wood?
It is “highly toxic”, “unsafe”, “and dangerous”. I’ve used a lot of intimidating words in this article, without really specifying how harmful it is to burn treated wood. What happens to your body when you inhale these volatile chemicals?
As you could’ve guessed, nothing good happens. The potential negative effects include high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, eye damage, and mucous membrane damage. And these are just short-term symptoms.
VOC or Volatile Organic Compounds is an umbrella term for most combustion products released into the atmosphere after the burning of painted wood or other materials.
These toxins tend to accumulate in the body. It means that you may not feel harmful effects right away but you will certainly feel them shortly. For example, the toxins significantly increase the risk of developing lung cancer, lymphoma, and prostate cancer.
If we’re talking about old lead-based paint the list of side effects is even longer. Different kinds of cancers, behavioral and mental disorders, and infertility.
The modern latex paint is not that much safer. When burned it is extremely harmful for children and pregnant women.
So can you burn painted wood? No. The answer is simple. According to solid waste regulations you need to dispose paint-covered wood and other unwanted materials by bringing them to dump sites. If you don’t have time to do it yourself you can someone. Open burning of this wood is prohibited in all states.
Healthcare professionals agree with lawyers on this one. Do not fire wood if it’s been treated with some active chemical compounds.
Is it OK to burn painted wood in a fire pit?
No. This wood should not be burned in a fire pit or anywhere else. Burned paint is a highly toxic stuff that can contaminate air in a very large area. So the bottom line is, that it is both illegal and dangerous for your health to get rid of the wood this way.
Can you burn wood after painting?
No. You should dispose of this wood some other way. For example, you can bring the wood to a dump site or hire someone to do it for you. Besides you can also recycle the wood instead of just throwing it away.
What happens if I burn paint?
If the wood covered in paint is set on fire all the toxic chemical compounds that were trapped in the paint will be released. Furthermore, the high temperatures will alter the composition of some molecules making them even more harmful.
After that, the toxins from the burning wood pile are picked up and carried away by wind. So they might end up in the lungs of people and animals miles away from the burning site.
Is burning paint fumes toxic?
Yes. Burning paint fumes are extremely toxic. Paint fumes are not that good for you in general. However, if you decide to fire the wood that’s been painted, you will make the fumes even more harmful.
If you have some old wood in your backyard, I’d advise you to get rid of it some other way.