Creosote is a toxic, potentially harmful, yellowish liquid product used for commercial purposes as a wood preservative. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), creosote may be regulated in some states because it has been shown to cause cancer in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies.
Note whether creosote is available for commercial use in your state. Alternatives for wood preservatives may be a good option for people in states such as New York, where creosote use and distribution is being phased out, as well as for people who want to avoid any potential creosote risks.
Risks associated with creosote exposure include cancer, as well as liver and kidney problems, according to the article "EPA: Creosote testing poorly handled" on SunHerald.com. Gardeners and lawn care buffs should keep in mind that, because creosote is toxic, using the wood preservative near grass, flowers and any plant could cause damage to the plant.
Choose from alternatives that include pressure treatments, naturally durable materials and non-wooden materials that will last a long time, according to ToolBase.org. Pressure-treated woods may be used outdoors on decks, patios and playgrounds, for example. Naturally durable woods include locust, cedar and redwood materials. Non-wood options--such as plastic-wood blends and imitation wood made of plastic--may be a good alternative to avoid the need for creosote wood preservatives for outdoor projects.
There are chemical alternatives to creosotes, but make sure to avoid chromated copper arsenate (CCA), which may lead to health or environmental risks; it contains arsenic, a deadly poison. Chemical alternatives to creosote and CCA include ammoniacal copper quat (ACQ-Types A, B and C), amine copper quat (ACQ-D), copper azole type A (CBA-A) and borate oxide (SBX). Wood preservatives containing these chemicals will be marketed using different brand names. Check the packaging label for ingredients, where the active chemical should be listed.
Conclusive evidence is not available on the long-term effects on exposure to these alternative products. Although some of them may be approved by the EPA and by state laws, that does not mean that any wood preserving chemical is absolutely safe. Considering the severe risks associated with chemical wood preservatives such as creosote and CCA, it seems best to be cautious. Pregnant women, or women who are planning to become pregnant, might want to consult a physician before risking exposure of the foetus to any kind of toxin, which could potentially cause pregnancy problems or birth defects.