Change to Permitted uses of Creosote in Northern Ireland

January 5, 2023
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Creosote, in particular coal tar creosote, has been used for many years as a wood preservative, however following concerns about health effects EU wide restrictions were put on the use of creosote in 2003.

These restrictions limited the use of creosote to industrial and professional uses and prohibited sales of treated wood except for industrial and professional uses with an exception for second hand wood treated before the regulations came into force.

The regulations also prohibit the use of creosoted wood (either new or second hand): Inside buildings, in toys, in playgrounds, in parks, gardens and outdoor leisure facilities where there is a risk of frequent skin contact, In the manufacture of garden furniture such as picnic tables, For the manufacture and use and any re-treatment of:

  • containers intended for growing purposes
  • packaging that may come into contact with raw materials, intermediate or finished products destined for human and/or animal consumption
  • other materials which may contaminate the products mentioned above.

Following Brexit and the different ways in which certain regulations apply in Northern Ireland it is anticipated that there may be some temporary divergence in the way creosote is regulated.

Following a review of the EU Biocidal Products Regulations the approval for creosote has been renewed in Northern Ireland until November 2029 but with changes to the permitted uses. With effect from 23rd April 2023 the following uses for creosote as a preventative treatment of wood have been renewed:

  • Railway sleepers
  • Utility poles for electricity
  • Utility poles for telecommunications

However the following uses will no longer be authorised:

  • Preventive and/or superficial treatment of wood used as fence panels, horizontals and posts used in highway fencing, equestrian fencing, security fencing and agricultural tree stakes/supports
  • Superficial treatment of wood used for railway sleepers, utility poles for electricity, and utility poles for telecommunications

No creosote treated wood can enter Northern Ireland for specifically these uses after the 30th of April 2022, however any wood that entered prior to this date can continued to be used.

Full details can be found on the HSE Northern Ireland website at:

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