Treated Timber

All right folks, it's time to 'fess up. No names mentioned, but you know who you are.

Those of you burning treated timber in your home fires have been spewing toxic fumes into Nelson's air. And Nelson City and Tasman District councils want you to stop.

In case you haven't heard, CCA-treated timber contains chrome, copper and arsenic. When the timber is burnt, most of the arsenic goes up the chimney and into the atmosphere attached to minute particles.

The rest of the arsenic is left in the ash, along with the residual chrome and copper, and is, according to Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science Wellington-based scientist Perry Davy, "not what you would want to be putting on your garden".

Dr Davy's findings of spikes in atmospheric inorganic arsenic during the winter of 2009 at Tahunanui monitoring sites were drawn from air quality monitoring work commissioned by the Nelson City Council.

The Tahunanui monitoring is part of the council's programme to understand, manage and improve air quality in the region. To meet new national standards in 2008, the council introduced its air quality plan, aimed at making a 70 per cent reduction in superfine particulate emissions, 80 per cent of which was identified as originating from domestic fires and wood burners.

Suspecting people were burning treated timber on their fires, Dr Davy looked at arsenic levels in three locations around the country already being monitored by GNS for air quality – Auckland, Wainuiomata and Tahunanui – and found dramatic increases in levels during winter in all three, consistent with the main fire-burning period.

In the Tahunanui case, he found levels of arsenic around 40 times greater in winter (spiking many times from May to September during 2009) than during January of the same year when levels were almost nothing.

Read More