Can You Burn Wood with Paint on It?

Burning old leftover painted wood seems to be an easy way of getting rid of them instead of hauling them over to the dump. Burning painted wood has a lot of caveats attached to it, let’s take a look at if you should go ahead with it or not.

Burning painted or treated wood is not recommended at all as it can release harmful fumes like lead, PCBs, VOCs, chromium, etc. Older painted wood should especially be avoided as most older paints used lead or PCBs which can cause long-term health damage.

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Can You Burn Painted Firewood?

Although painted firewood can burn, it is not recommended to do so at all. Painted firewood can release a lot of harmful chemicals and fumes which can have a very long-lasting health impact as well.

Although some types of paint can actually help the firewood to burn easily and even hotter, they should still be avoided.

Some people state that woods which have been painted recently are not as bad because they don’t use lead-based paint. But this is only partially true, yes modern paints don’t have lead in them which have a really bad side-effect, but they still contain other harmful chemicals which can be really harmful to your health.

What Kind of Chemicals Will Burning Painted Wood Release?

Some of the chemicals which can be found in paint include Lead, Chromium, Titanium, VOCs, and PCBs. Some of these chemicals have immediate side effects while others can have delayed symptoms.

Although Lead is not allowed to be used in paints anymore, there is a possibility that some of the older wood pieces might still have lead present in them. If lead is present in the paint of burning wood, you can experience headaches, joint pains, abdominal pain, memory loss, and difficulty concentrating. On top of this, high blood pressure can also be an issue. It can also lower sperm count and cause issues with miscarriages.

Other harmful chemicals include VOCs and PCBs. VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds and these are a conglomeration of volatile stuff and they can really harm your system. PCB stands for Polychlorinated Biphenyls and they were usually used between the 1920s and 1970s and are pretty similar to VOCs.

These chemicals can cause issues in the reproductive system, neurobehavioral effects, liver damage, diabetes, thyroid, cancer especially prostate and lymphoma, and damage to the immune system.

These chemicals can together cause havoc to anyone’s health.

Is it Safe to Burn Water-Base Painted Wood?

Although water-based paints are less harmful to your health, they should still not be burnt as they might contain other harmful substances that you are not aware of.

Should You Burn Old Painted Wood?

You should really be careful while handling old pieces of painted wood as older paints can have lead and PCBs in them. If these burn, the harmful fumes can travel long distances and cause health issues to people around you as well.

Is Burning Painted Wood Illegal?

Some states have strict laws against the burning of painted wood. Although some states don’t expressly state it, the legal language can be inferred to mean painted wood as well.

For example, the State of Michigan states that “burning of unwanted materials such as paper, trees, brush, leaves release emissions directly into the air. Open burning happens when pollutants do not pass through a chimney or when the combustion of solid waste is not adequately controlled. Air quality and solid waste regulations prohibit open burning of painted burning materials”.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources state, “DNR’s air quality and waste management rules prohibit burning of wood that has been painted, treated or laminated under any conditions”.

On the other hand, the State of Ohio doesn’t expressly prohibit the burning of painted wood but the materials which they prohibit are usually released when painted wood is burnt. These materials include rubber, grease, asphalt, or materials made from petroleum or plastic.


Burning painted or treated wood can cause long and short-term health damage due to the chemicals present in them. They can include VOC, lead, PCBs, and Chromium among others.

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