It may sound like a good recycling idea, but burning old railway sleepers can have some nasty effects down the line.
Wooden rail sleepers are constantly being replaced across Australia as new concrete or timber ones are installed. Some of the old wooden sleepers are being sold as 'firewood'. Here are some reasons why you should never use these rail sleepers as a heating source:
- Asbestos - Until the mid-1980's, train brake linings contained asbestos. Over time, this brake 'dust' becomes embedded in the sleeper which when disturbed becomes airborne and hazardous to human health. As there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, cleaning a fireplace that has been used to burn old railway sleepers has the potential to cause lung cancer (!)
- Contamination - after decades of use, a myriad of substances find their way into railway sleepers. Herbicides, grease, oil and heavy metals soak into the timber and are vaporised when heated, permeating your living room with toxic fumes and ruining that romantic evening you had planned.
- Stones - railway sleepers lie in a bed of ballast. These stones can become embedded in the sleeper and find their way into your fireplace, causing havoc, cracking glass, and potentially injuring you and others nearby.
Take home message: If you enjoy the ambience a fireplace provides, and want to live a long and healthy life...don't burn old railway sleepers!
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