How to Cut Pressure-Treated Wood Safely
Since the Environmental Protection Agency banned Chromated Copper Arsenate pressure treated lumber in March 2009, pressure-treated wood has lost many of the environmental and health hazards that have been long associated with the product. The risks have greatly been minimized, yet pressure-treated lumber is still saturated with many harsh chemicals that need to be considered when working with the wood. Wood dust is the largest factor since large quantities of the airborne chemicals can be ingested, inhaled and contact the skin.
Step 1 - Prepare the Area
Make sure the area where construction will occur is free from food and food preparation areas either directly or indirectly. Water, drinks, and faucets should not come into contact with either wood or wood dust and debris. Cut the wood outside where open ventilation will not recirculate the wood dust. If the wood must be cut inside, make sure all windows and doors are open to allow for adequate ventilation. Don't allow wood dust into the vents of the house or it may become recirculated through a forced-air furnace. Try to keep all sawdust in one location while cutting to better facilitate clean up and keep the chemicals localized.
Step 2 - Prepare Yourself
Anytime pressure-treated lumber is worked with or cut safety precautions need to be taken into account. Wear protective goggles or eyeglasses, rubber gloves, a dust mask, and protective clothing which will cover exposed skin. The chemicals on the wood can be absorbed through the skin. Never smoke or use tobacco around pressure-treated lumber construction.
Step 3 - Clean Up
Debris from pressure-treated lumber projects needs to be swept up with a traditional broom while still wearing all safety gear. Try to collect as much of the wood and sawdust as possible. Be sure to place the dust in a tied plastic bag before throwing the debris in the household trash can. The debris should never be placed into a compost bin, yard debris receptacle, swept into the yard or burned.
Step 4 - Seal the Ends
In the process of pressure-treating lumber, the boards are saturated with the chemicals and then pressurized to permeate the board. Since the center of pressure-treated lumber often has not been treated as thoroughly, the raw ends of the wood are vulnerable to fungus, mold, and attack from other destructive elements. Use special pressure treated wood sealer to seal only the freshly cut ends. Paint the sealer onto the cut ends and allow it to dry before construction to ensure the entire board is adequately protected.
Step 5 - Wash Up
Wash all hands and skin immediately after working with and cutting pressure-treated lumber. Do not use the restroom, eat or drink anything before washing. Work clothes should be separated from other laundry and washed separately. It is a good idea to take a shower after cutting pressure-treated lumber to get all debris out of the hair and off of the scalp.