UF researchers: technique cuts pollution from burning treated wood

A University of Florida research team has developed a new technique to reduce toxic pollution from incinerating pesticide-treated wood, a development that comes amid growing national debate over how to safely dispose of the wood.

The technique not only reduces toxins in air pollution generated by incinerating discarded treated wood, it also makes the toxins less likely to leach out of the ash and into the groundwater when it is placed in a landfill, said C.Y. Wu, a UF assistant professor of environmental engineering.

"Our technique solves two problems: It reduces emissions and leaching," said Wu, the lead investigator on the team, which will present its findings later this month at the American Chemical Society's annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Wood treated with chromated copper arsenate, commonly known as CCA, contains arsenic and chromium, which are known carcinogens. Used in everything from decks to porches to playground equipment, it has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years as scientists have raised concerns about release of arsenic into the environment. One focus of the concern is disposal of the wood, which is often mixed with nontreated wood and incinerated. Concerns are particularly high in Florida, which has electricity-generating wood incinerators and is estimated to incinerate at least 70 percent of its waste treated wood, Wu said. The amount of discarded treated wood in Florida, meanwhile, is expected to grow from 5 million cubic feet per year today to 35 million cubic feet in 2015, according to research by UF and University of Miami scientists.

Wu said the team's research shows that when CCA-treated wood is burned, much of the arsenic may escape into the air. That's because the pollution control devices in the incinerators' smokestacks capture only relatively large particles. In the heat of the incinerator, however, the arsenic vaporizes and forms extremely tiny particles -- less than 1 micron in diameter, or mo

Contact: C.Y. Wu
University of Florida

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