Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Firewood Association says no to burning sleepers

johnboy 11 July 2011 10

A subject dear to the hearts of all Canberra’s woodfire burning households is the use of railway sleepers which provide excellent recycled long lasting heating.

But the Beast has been giving air to warnings from the Firewood Association about the health risks of using sleepers as fuel:

The Firewood Association has long since banned the sale of old rail sleepers by its members for the following reasons:

1. Used railway sleepers may contain asbestos. Even though asbestos train brake linings were phased out in the mid 1980’s, some old sleepers may pre-date this time. Fibres from the asbestos brake linings can become trapped in cracks in the sleepers. As long as they are not disturbed they are safe, but they will be released when the sleepers are burnt. These fibres will collect and concentrate in the ash in the bottom of a fireplace, heater or wood oven and they can be deadly.

2. Almost all used railway sleepers are contaminated to some extent with herbicides, heavy metals, grease and oil. When used railway sleepers are burnt, these substances are vaporised, releasing odours and potentially harmful fumes. These fumes will be absorbed by any food cooked with the wood, for example in pizza ovens or barbecues. If these fumes escape from the heater/fire into the room they can cause respiratory health problems.

3. Small stones from the track ballast become stuck in used sleepers. When heated in a fire these small stones can explode, creating a hazard in an open fire or cracking the glass of a slow combustion heater.

Sounds rather dire. Will it change your firewood purchasing?

What's Your Opinion?

Please login to post your comments, or connect with
10 Responses to Firewood Association says no to burning sleepers
Chop71 6:00 pm 11 Jul 11

[quote comment="337526"]You can get upwards of $50 a sleeper at some markets, and you Canberrans burn them?[/quote]


At that price, i'll dig up the ones in my garden ...... I got plenty

Gershwin 5:47 pm 11 Jul 11

This could be because there is a long-established firewood supplier in Fyshwick that has been selling chopped up sleepers as firewood for the past few weeks. They don't have any right now, but I bought (and have used) some in recent weeks - thankfully in a combustion fireplace, although my neighbours may have copped some of the fumes if there were any. Won't be buying any more of that though.

andym 5:46 pm 11 Jul 11

Doesnt seem to bother NSW railways who often burn off large piles of them.

Henry82 4:20 pm 11 Jul 11

Looking at their about page, it looks like the committee members are either suppliers of firewood or fireplace sellers, so i'd be taking what they say with a grain of salt.

Having said that, if you get your hands on a solid sleeper, strip the edges off, and polish it, it looks fantastic.

Gungahlin Al 3:11 pm 11 Jul 11

[quote comment="337548"]So I'm guessing that a bon-fire with railway sleepers and old painted fence palings isn't a good idea...[/quote]

Toss on some chipboard and you'll have a whole lot of chemical fun.

When I was a kid, the fun thing was always to toss fibro onto fires to watch it explode. Poor kid's fireworks. Fibro we now know as asbestos cement sheeting... I hate to think...

Pity 2:55 pm 11 Jul 11

So I'm guessing that a bon-fire with railway sleepers and old painted fence palings isn't a good idea...

The Frots 2:54 pm 11 Jul 11

[quote comment="337544"]I can't believe there is a firewood association.[/quote]

+1 there! I'm still trying to get my head around that.

Mysteryman 2:44 pm 11 Jul 11

I can't believe there is a firewood association.

Gungahlin Al 2:12 pm 11 Jul 11

Seriously? You know people who use old railway sleepers for firewood? With the creosote and whatever else they soak them in, not to mention everything that drips/falls off the trains? Yikes. I wouldn't have thought a warning would have been needed for that one...

Adds a whole new level to the definition of "indoor air pollution".

ConanOfCooma 12:30 pm 11 Jul 11

You can get upwards of $50 a sleeper at some markets, and you Canberrans burn them?

CBR Tweets

Sign up to our newsletter

Copyright © 2019 Region Group Pty Ltd. All rights reserved. | | |

Search across the site