Are railroad cross ties toxic?

Filed Under: Building Structures · Keywords: Walls, Railroad Ties, Retaining Wall · 3355 Views

Ive heard that railroad cross ties are very toxic. Is this true?

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Answer #1 · Chason Arthur's Answer ·

Yes. Cross ties are toxic because they are coated with creosote, a tar-like substance made from coal. Exposure to creosote on the skin has been shown to cause rash and irritation and in an extreme case, cancer. Direct skin contact with creosote poses the most likely health risks to people. If children play on or around the ties they may get creosote on their skin and clothing and could subsequently ingest small amounts. Exposure to skin can cause irritation and rashes. Ingestion in small amounts while not life threatening, is a health concern. 

If you must use railroad cross ties to build your wall, when handling creosote treated wood, wear gloves and long sleeves and try to minimize time spent working with ties. Avoid using a chain saw to cut the ties. Use a large circular-type saw that you can rent from your local tool rental store. Make sure to cover all exposed skin and wear protective safety glasses when cutting. Work in well ventilated areas and avoid working in hot conditions when vapors are most potent.

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