Wood Tar health risks

Is there anything hazardous about condensed wood tar in one place? When I tried charcoal production in a retort, by accident rather than design I condensed some from the external gas recirculation tube- photo attached. What I’m thinking is: could I condense the tar and burn it at a different time to reduce the avalanche effect of recirculating the retort gas? While I’ve no intention of inhaling biomass smoke, tars, CO and everything- who would do something like that- I’ll probably have skin contact with the stuff, or more accurately, given my track record with glue, CV joint grease and paint, it’s pretty certain that I’ll end up plastered with it. Wikipaedia seems to think it’s wonderful stuff…

…this page reckons it’s carcinogenic


Has anyone got any experience of adverse reactions?

LOL wikipedia’s angled writing strikes again,That wiki page is talking about COAL tar when its saying about tar being highly carcinogenic

while you still wouldn’t want to have it on your toast, wood tar isn’t anywhere near as bad as proper coal tar

i can buy wood tar soap that has real creosote as the anti bacterial ingrediant…creosote is the known carcinogen in wood tar…

one thing to remember about “Known Carcinogens”… steak is a known carcinogen if taken in sufficiant’s quantity over time…pretty much anything is if taken/applied i great quantity


Hey BrianH
This is very unscientific, but easiest to think of wood tars as the orginal trees consentrated actual insect bug killer and as the trees anti-fungal and anti-baterial factors all distilled down and consentrated. Why when the tree dies and stops activly making juices it get infested and infected. So, you betcha - real cell toxins. This is why it was recognized way before germ thoery as such a good wood presevative for ships, railroad ties and trestles. Is said without woodtars as preservatives England would have never made it out of the 1820’s into the iron age.
Advice you use disposable gloves or a purpose dedicated durable set. Do soap hand wash routinly. Never eye rub. Handling it against skin I have far less problems than with diesel or especially gasoline. Very individualistic. Other’s have had the opposite sensitivty.
I think overall for the handling consider it as personally hazardous as weel used up motor oil.

Regionally we have one of the largest western US chemical wepons storage depots.
They have been building a high temp incenerator to thermal/chemically break all of these down to basic elements. They are still trying to hoop jump all of the air shed licencing. In the meantime the artillery and bomb shell casing keep aging to where they have to more and more haz-mat barrel overpack a lot. Gee. Just get it GONE SOONEST!

Regionally we have a few million of acres of woodland and grasslands go up in wildfire smokes. Very smoky without good focused combustion controls. Now that has been going on since time in-memorial. These really spike the US EPA air quality meters. Ha! Ha! Hard to agency regulate and dictate Ma’ Natures cycles.

Use some gloves, keep the slime out of your eyes and you will be safe enough to be able to tell your grandchildren stories about your good 'ol days.

Steve Unruh

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…wouldn’t want it on my toast? Next time I have a toasted bacon sandwich, I’ll make sure it’s unsmoked bacon :slight_smile: It seems to be pretty widely used, and they seem to love the stuff in Finland, so I won’t lose too much sleep over it.

Hi Brian, wood tar has caused my wife a lot of distress when it gets all over my clothes. :slight_smile: .

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I used to wear a set of black bibs until they wore out … Just make sure you dump the stuff in out of site places so no-one freaks out. I’m in a rural area of course and they will be spraying roundup and or 2-4-D all over soon. Those items make me immediately sick. Johan in Sweden commented on PAH’s (poly aromatic hydrocarbons) so there is a name for the problem compounds … ML

Hi Brian, wood tar has caused my wife a lot of distress when it gets all over my clothes. :slight_smile: .

Now, I think I’ve got a workaround for that. I’m not married.

What it is, I discovered at an early age that “Apply Sparingly” is a difficult concept for me. Any sticky, gungy substance has a magnetic attraction for me. Glue, paint, automotive grease, silicone gasket goo, tomato ketchup- I usually end up plastered with it. Thus qualified, I used to work in a toothpaste factory…another story for another day. A poem sums this up…

Shake and shake the ketchup bottle
None’ll come and then a lot’ll

Just make sure you dump the stuff in out of site places

Now really… I hope we’re all a cut above “just dumping” anything troublesome. I’d want to ask the questions, and if it’s nasty, make sure it’s burned and out of harms way, not produced in the first place, or otherwise properly disposed of. As it happens, wood tar is so ubiquitous in smoked food products that I wouldn’t regard it as dangerous unless proven otherwise. I’m hoping to use it to moderate the avalanche effect of retort charcoal production.

I wish I had a hundred thousand gallon of the tar to put on my mile long( winter muddy ,summer dusty) driveway . It looks just like asphalt when put on a gravel road and dried.

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It would splash into your fender wells :o) … It will biodegrade just like the the trees it came from … ML

Nail polish remover has worked well for me on truck body drips, followed by some wax. I haven’t tried it on clothes yet. Need to buy more black clothes, end of problem!

Nail polish remover… I presume that’s acetone or isopropanol based- is it noticeably better at shifting and dissolving tar than petrol/gasoline? What I’m thinking is: what could I run the engine on for ten minutes before shutting it down to clean out any traces of tar?

my understanding is you can actually add small amounts of acetone to gasoline… i’m talking no more than an ounce to say 10 gallons of gas. it’s supposed to increase milage in itself… haven’t tried it myself but I may at some point.

Good question Brian, dumb answer is I never actually tried gasoline. The nail polish remover I believe is a “modified” acetone cause it does not bother my hands, and it is nearly instantaneous clean-up, plus I’ve never seen any red paint coming off. I do keep this one area waxed good.

My wife turned me on to this stuff…its a citrus based de-solvent…called “Goo Gone” ( made by the makers of Goop)…it removes road tar…glue, tape residue and such…she uses it on my clothes and had fairly good luck with even silicone…it smells like oranges…I tried it on a fender where I went down newly tared and chipped road…and it wiped right off…you will have to apply new wax to any waxed area…it is really mild to your hands…when glue, tar, ect is disolved…I rinse with soap and water…then a little hand cleaner…


Just stumbled across this thread.

Yes. Wood Tar is very dangerous.

I have had dandruff since I was in middle-school.

So, I’ve been using Pine Tar shampoo for all these decades.

And, as you can see, it has driven me crazy.

Now, I’m trying to make trucks run on wood.


Hi Brian
If I’m not mistaken wood tar is what we called Stockholm Tar and we use it on animals for open wounds to help heal, stop bleeding and keep flies off.


I’ve been playing with tar and wasting some propane with my torch for the last few weeks. Cold temps and a rock solid hopper drain is the cause.
So, tar issues on the news caught my attention. I guess smoking is a far greater health risk then DOW :smile: Watch the video and you will never consider smoking again.
Brittiska forskarnas bomullstest visar: Så äckligt ser det ut i lungorna efter en månads rökning | SVT Nyheter


JO; Did I mis interpret that video. Were they saying “vaping” is OK? No tars in the cotton balls of the vapor test. TomC

Seems so, yes - as far as tars are concerned.