Warning over arsenic in the air

00:57, Jul 04 2014
Matt Lawrey
BURNING ISSUE: Councillor Matt Lawrey with treated timber which should not be burnt because it produces arsenic.

If it is green - do not burn it.

Nelson City Councillor Matt Lawrey wants people to stop burning treated timber and is urging residents to report anyone burning it or supplying it as firewood.

"Burning treated timber is a really bad idea for the simple reason that it releases cancer-causing arsenic into the air," Matt said.

"You can tell treated timber from its green colouring. If it looks green, please don't burn it. Unwanted treated timber belongs in landfill, not your logburner."

Matt wants to raise the issue after recent publicity on the results of an independent study by the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) for the city council which revealed harmful levels of arsenic in the air in the Victory Square area.

The GNS report said levels in the Victory area were double health guidelines. It found that the arsenic in the air was from the use of copper chrome arsenate (CCA), or treated timber being burned in domestic fires.


Matt, who lives in Victory, said that once the monitoring of Nelson's other airsheds was complete it was possible that arsenic would be found in other parts of the city's airshed as well.

"It's entirely possible that people have no idea just what burning treated wood does to our air so I'm very keen to raise awareness of the problem," he said.

He hoped that educating people about the risks would be the fastest way to make an impact.

"That said, if readers know of people willfully burning treated wood, they should report them," he said. "People should also contact council if they know of anyone supplying or selling treated timber for firewood."

Council regulations prohibit the discharge of contaminants into the air from the burning of CCA-treated timber.

The burning of green wood or firewood with a moisture content of more than 25 per cent is also banned in Nelson. Green wood that has recently been cut or wood that has not been stored properly or for long enough does not meet this requirement.

NCC's 24-hour phone number is 03 546 0200.

The Nelson Mail