Creosote Substitutes

Written by natasha gilani
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Creosote Substitutes
Creosote is used to preserve wood products. (wood image by Marvin Gerste from

Creosote, also called pitch oil, is a popularly used wood preservative that has been used extensively for both residential and industrial applications. The product is obtained from coal tar and used as a fungicide, algicide, miticide, insecticide and sporicide. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, exposure to high levels of creosote causes skin irritation, stomach pains, burning of the throat and mouth, liver and kidney problems and convulsions. Creosote substitutes provide similar benefits without the hazards of creosote. However, some of them have additional health and environmental hazards and must be used carefully.

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Pentachlorophenol is a synthetic creosote substitute that has been used as a disinfectant, algicide, fungicide, insecticide and herbicide. According to John Harte in the book "Toxics A to Z," pentachlorophenol is an effective creosote substitute and is also used as a wood preservative. The substance, however, poses extensive environmental and health hazards. According to the ATSDR, exposure to high levels of pentachlorophenol increases body temperature, damages the immune system, affects the liver and causes negative reproductive and developmental effects. As of 2010, pentachlorophenol was used industrially as a wood preservative for sleepers, telegraph poles and wharf pilings. The Environmental Protection Agency lists pentachlorophenol as a potential carcinogen.

Chromated Copper Arsenate

Chromated copper arsenate is a wood preservative that is used as a creosote substitute. It is used to prevent wood from rotting due to microbial agents and insects. CCA, according to William R. Cullen in the book "Is Arsenic an Aphrodisiac," provides comprehensive protection against wood-boring pests, produces no vapours or smells, is used for both indoor and outdoor applications and is nontoxic to growing plants. Chromated copper arsenate contains arsenic, which is a carcinogen. The EPA classifies chromated copper arsenate as a restricted-use product that can only be used by certified pesticide personnel.

Creosote Carbonate

Creosote carbonate is a substitute for creosote, according to W. Simon in the "Manual of Chemistry." The substance, also called beechwood creosote and wood creosote, is a yellowish oily liquid that is a mixture of the components of creosote, including cresol and guiacol. Creosote carbonate is used in the pharmacology industry.


Phenosalyl is a solution of benzoic, salicylic, carbolic and lactic acids. It is popularly used as an external antiseptic. Phenosalyl is a creosote substitute that is used as a germicide.

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