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What not to burn

Besides wet wood, there are other materials that are dangerous to burn in your home fire. When the materials listed below are burnt, they can give off toxic substances. They can harm your and other’s health, the environment as well as your fireplace, woodburner or chimney.


Toxic substance/s it can
give off if burnt include…

Potential effects these toxic substances can have include…

human health

the environment

your fireplace, woodburner or chimney

Treated wood
  • arsenic (from CCA treated wood)
  • tin (from LOSP treated wood)
  • boron

Short-term exposure:

  • sore throat
  • lung irritation

Long-term exposure:

  • lung damage
  • liver and kidney damage
  • damage to the central nervous system
  • increased risk of cancer

Ash will be contaminated (with arsenic, and may have high levels of copper, chromium, boron or tin). Shouldn't be put on the garden.


Painted wood

Depends on type and colour of paint but can give off:

  • lead
  • cadmium
  • barium
  • zinc
  • copper
  • tin

As above.

Ash is likely to be contaminated with one or more heavy metals.


  • formaldehyde

Short-term exposure:

  • coughing
  • headaches
  • eye and skin irritation
  • asthma attacks

Long-term exposure:

  • cancer (suspected)


  • creosote in chimney - possible increased risk of chimney fires
  • dioxins
  • furans

Long-term exposure:

  • cancer (suspected)
  • problems with immune, developmental and reproductive systems
Dioxins can settle on plants, which, if eaten by livestock, contaminate milk and meat.
  • corrosion of woodburner’s metallic parts (due to high salt content)


  • plastics
  • disposable nappies
  • magazines
  • wrappers
  • boxes
  • VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
  • semi-volatile organic compounds (e.g. phenol)
  • chlorobenzenes, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, carbonyls (e.g. acetaldehyde, acetone and formaldehyde)
  • dioxins
  • furans
As above. As above. As above.

For more information on the effects of these toxic substances, visit the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry website.