Driftwood as Firewood: A Danger in Disguise

Driftwood as Firewood

Could driftwood washed up on the shore be a source of free firewood? Is this the ultimate budget-saving life hack for burning wood?

Don’t get your hopes up because driftwood should never be burned as firewood, and we’re here to tell you why. Read on as we discuss why driftwood is dangerous to burn and how it affects your health and the environment.

Is driftwood a good firewood?

Is driftwood a good firewood
Image: Smore Science

Driftwood should never be used as firewood because its high salt and dioxin content are carcinogenic and highly toxic to humans when burned.

Driftwood refers to the pieces of wood that naturally wash up on the shores of oceans, beaches, lakes or rivers. 

Some may have been part of sunken boats or ships years before they ended on the shore. These plywood and other boards for construction might contain glue and other carcinogenic bonding agents when burned.

Because of their extended stay in these waters, driftwood tends to have very high moisture and salt content. If they were treated or painted parts of sunken ships, they might even contain pockets of gases. 

All these, when burned, can release harmful chemicals and gases that are toxic to humans, and that’s not a risk worth taking. 

The high moisture content of the driftwood also reduces its heat output and efficiency, making it difficult to use as a source of heat. 

What are the hazards brought by burning driftwood?

What are the hazards brought by burning driftwood
Image: Wikipedia

Burning driftwood causes the release of several toxic chemicals and gases into the atmosphere that bring about health and environmental hazards. 

Let’s look deeper at how burning driftwood affects human health and the environment.

1. Health Hazards

Health Hazards
Image: Wikipedia

When driftwood is burned, toxins, gases and unknown substances are released into the atmosphere, and they can cause short and long-term damage to those exposed to them. 

Studies showed that prolonged exposure to the toxic fumes of burned driftwood led humans to experience nausea, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pains, stomach and liver issues, compromised immunity and increased risk of cancer. 

What’s worse, these health hazards tend to have a more severe and long-term effect on children. This makes driftwood a risk not worth taking, especially at the expense of your friends and loved ones while chilling in front of a fireplace or at a campfire.

2. Environmental Hazards

Environmental Hazards
Image: Wikipedia

When driftwood is burned, the absorbed salt releases sodium and chlorine ions, producing the carcinogenic chemical dioxin. 

As driftwood is burned, dioxin doubles itself and increases the quantity released into the atmosphere. According to the World Health Organization, dioxin has a half-life of between 7 and 11 years. Now that a long time to remove in our environment. 

Those exposed to dioxin have an increased risk of cancer and respiratory and immunity problems. Dioxin is also toxic to plants and wildlife and pollutes air and soil. 

FAQs on Driftwood Firewood

Can you burn freshwater driftwood?


You can burn freshwater driftwood as long as you properly season the wood and make sure that it has not been treated or painted.

Can you burn driftwood in a log burner?


You should never burn driftwood in a log burner because its high salt and moisture content will damage the internal parts of the log burner. Smoke from burned driftwood will also cause health problems and environmental hazards.

What will happen when I burn driftwood on my stove?


The toxic fumes from burning driftwood may cause your stove’s corrosion and venting system.

Should you use driftwood for cooking?


You should never use driftwood in cooking because the food will absorb the dioxins, which can bioaccumulate in the body and cause health problems.

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