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railway sleepers, how dangerous are they?  RSS feed

 
Debbie Salemink
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Today a few of the railway guys that work here gave us, even brought them to our house for us to use, 20 beams. they are very inspirational and i can think of 220 ways to use them but I know they're poisonous! Can we use them in our garden? Is there any safe way to treat them and use them or should we silently get rid of them (we have children )? thanks for any feedback!
 
Rufus Laggren
Posts: 481
Location: Chicago/San Francisco
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Are they "used", ie. old and taken out of service? If so they will be far less "active" than new ones. I'm sure you're searching "railroad ties, garden OR children" and finding lots of opinions; a couple three hours of sifting may clarify things. Old ones have always been used for landscaping by anybody that could get them. I have seen them around "everywhere" and played on them (old ones) in gardens when I was a kid. No certified expertise on whether they affect nearby veggies; to me it looks like by the time they're taken out of service whatever was going to leach out has gone and the only possible way to get any remaining chemicals would be for plant roots to directly contact the treated wood.

Rufus
 
andrew curr
Posts: 288
Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
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what kinda timber are they
Traditionaly in australia they are made out of hardwood and not treated Our hardwoods are denser than yours
eg eucaliptus;;caldumensis, melliodora,sideroxolin etc
do they use black locust in usa ?;they should
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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In NZ, I think the problems with sleepers are generally from old, rather than new: fuel/toxic gunk spilt from trains, the creosote used to help preserve them (probably more an issue with pretty old sleepers, but it's nasty stuff) and the hardcore herbicides used along railway lines.
As far as I know, these toxins can be present in quite high levels.
I assume they're old?
I'll be very interested in other's responses...I use all sorts of stuff many people won't, but I don't have kids.
I think this is one thing I'd be quite wary of around children.
 
Debbie Salemink
Posts: 41
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Thanks for the replies. It's difficult to find 'real' facts about these things. The beams that where given to me are old creosote treated beams.
I live in Portugal and under European pressure all these beams have to be replaced with concrete as they have been given the label 'highly dangerous' which is how I'm treating them for now. But it's so funny how these laws work, because they are being replaced, removed and than spread to everybody to use or if nobody wants them they are being resold for 20 euro each at wood shops...the railway guys that brought them said 'don't worry, the creosote wore out a long time ago' and they weren't wearing any protective clothing while removing them....everybody here (close to the railways) is building sheds and putting them in their vegetables patches,
(so what a silly law because if they are that dangerous, now, with these new laws, they are even more dangerous) people are very happy that they got them for free and when I try to get any info online I get get anything from extremely dangerous to nothing even close to a hazard. They are really nice and very useful. Would sanding them with the right protective clothing help?
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1359
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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I would not create sawdust from those potentially hazardous stuff, If you are going to use them use them as they are. Maybe use a table saw to cut of 1/3inch.
 
Rufus Laggren
Posts: 481
Location: Chicago/San Francisco
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Thanks for those links. A bit of an eye opener. The story about the town is sobering and shameful. And it says something very strongly about how we as individuals just go along to get along with authority and money and stick our heads in the sand when something threatens the status quo, especially the financial status quo. And about the total failure (or lack of) institutional safe guards to balance our natural ostrich tendencies - at least in Texas.

It's tragic but also disconcerting because of what it says about how we act. People seem to require pain and death - lots of it - before we face up to much less act on unpalatable issues.


Rufus
 
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