Coal-tar creosote has been used as a wood preservative since 1838. This week, growers and farmers who rely on creosote to provide a safe and reliable service life in tree stakes, poles and animal fencing came close to facing an end to the availability of creosote treatment.
Some time ago the EU took the decision to ban the amateur use of creosote as a precautionary measure, because of concerns around the impacts of creosote on human health and the environment. As a result, amateurs have not been able to use creosote since 2003. Approvals for professional and industrial use of creosote products were allowed to continue. But these approvals, made under the EU Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR), place restrictions on the type of products and on where wood treated with creosote can be used.
Under the BPR, creosote is authorised for sale, supply and use in the UK until 29 March 2021. However, until recently the future use had only been approved for railway sleepers, highways fencing and overhead electricity and telecommunication poles. Wood treaters had been facing the situation where in April this year they were stopped from refilling storage tanks to treat stakes, poles and fencing for agricultural use, and this week the period to use-up those existing stocks came to an end.
Creosote suppliers had applied to extend the current authorisation to allow the treatment of stakes, poles and fencing for agricultural uses. This extension was finally agreed by HSE last week, such that these uses are now allowed to continue uninterrupted.
We understand that creosote manufacturers are looking to apply for authorisation of creosote beyond March 2021. The NFU has been working with Wood Protection Association to secure the continuing use of creosote in agricultural situations and thanks them for their support on this issue.