Todd Shupe Says Steps
Still Remain In Effort
To Find Safe Substances
For Wood Treatment

With warmer weather on the way for much of the U.S., the time-honored tradition of “spring cleaning” will soon be upon us. This means we’ll have an opportunity to get outdoors once again and assess the damage done by winter. When it comes to outdoor structures such as patios, porches, treehouses and other wooden structures, rot is almost guaranteed. This is an unfortunate fact since so much of the lumber that’s purchased to build outdoor structures – not to mention the frames of our homes – is treated with preservative chemicals to extend their lifespans and give them a fighting chance against deterioration. Todd Shupe, a wood sciences expert who spent years leading a professional lab, has thus learned a few things about what to do with rotting wood that isn’t absolutely environmentally unfriendly.

In a recent article that appeared in The Chippewa Herald, a municipal government recycling specialist sounds off on the dangerous surrounding open burning of trash – including wood. The reason for her warning surrounding backyard burning is that the chemicals released during the process are sent straight into the atmosphere and aren’t treated like they would be at a specialized facility. According to the article, “untreated wood” can be burned with a permit from your local government office. Unfortunately, as Todd Shupe can tell you, untreated wood is hard to come by unless you just chopped the limb off of a tree. The chemicals used to treat wood for non-residential purposes included heavy metals such as chromim, copper, and asenic, pentachlorophenol and creosote. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), all wood preservatives are subjected to periodic reviews. That’s with good reason, says Todd Shupe, who notes that creosote is absorbed into the body through breathing and can remain there after being stored in fat. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that this chemical can cause “burning in the mouth and throat as well as stomach pain.”

Fortunately, the EPA and other entities have realized the dangers of treating wood with chemicals that have an adverse effect on human health. Fortunately, there are government agencies restricting use or ditching harmful chemicals altogether. From a science standpoint, Todd Shupe says that the solution is to either dispose of chemically-treated wood in a responsible manner or find metal-free preservatives. He’s similarly encouraged by the ongoing development of metal-free wood preservatives and the use of small diameter timber for the bio-energy sector.

Meet the Author

Todd Shupe is the President of and is a well recognized expert on wood-based housing and building materials, wood decay and degradation, and wood science. Shupe worked as a professor and lab director at LSU for over 20 years. He is active in several ministries including his Christian blog Todd is the President of the Baton Rouge District of United Methodist Men, and Board Member for Gulf South Men and a Team Leader for The Kingdom Group. He is a volunteer for the Walk to Emmaus, Grace Camp, and Iron Sharpens Iron. Todd is a Men’s Ministry Specialist through the General Commission of United Methodist Men and is in training to be a Certified Lay Minister through the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church.