I don’t want people to push the panic button when they hear that they may have a home anointed with harsh, carcinogenic wood preservatives. Over the years, some misguided people may have built homes that were constructed from old railroad ties, but this is something that rarely happens. The use of fresh creosote treated timbers is probably non existent. The smell of this chemical and the problems that it would pose to the builders constructing the home would be insurmountable. Creosote is so antagonistic to those using it that it is doubtful that anyone would take on the task of constructing such a home.
It would be the homes that were built with old railroad ties that are the main items of concern If you think that you are living in such a home you should contact the local health department or the local forest service to have it tested for caustic wood preservative even though there isn’t much that you can do to alleviate the problem except vacate the home. Creosote is a carcinogen and it will affect your health. It is a tough call but when your health is in jeopardy, then it is time to take drastic measures.
Other wood preservatives are “penta” which is short for penta-chlorophenol. This is another caustic chemical used in the past to treat lumber and in some cases as a dip treatment for logs.
This and another wood preservative CCA were used either as dip treatments or in some cases as pressure treatments for log homes and other lumber products. Again, contact your local health department or Department of Forestry to have your logs/lumber tested for concentrations of the chemical. If high levels of these chemicals are present then you need to make a decision of what you want to do with your home.
This article was not written to elicit alarm, but to educate people about homes that were manufactured years ago when these chemicals were embraced b y some home manufacturers as the way prolong the lifespan of the home. If in doubt, have your home checked and then do the prudent choice based on the findings.