Tuesday, 29 May 2007


I once had the idea to import railway sleepers into Inishowen for use in landscape design. I would have had to go overseas, as most of the Irish sleepers have been used up. I am glad I decided not to after reading this week’s news. The Pesticide Control Service (PCS), have placed seizure orders on shipments of railway sleepers coming into the country. The reason for this is that the sleepers have been soaked in creosote. Creosote was banned in 2003 because of a risk of cancer and the EU concluded that even low levels of the substance cause rashes and irritations. The sleepers that are now sitting in the garden centres and DIY stores can only be sold to farmers. How this will be implemented I don’t know (and why is it OK for farmers to have them - are they more immune to the toxins?)

Sleepers do ooze creosote in hot weather and there are over 200 chemicals in creosote. Another worry is that if you have raised beds made from them, the chemicals could seep into the soil and be absorbed by the plants. A spokesperson for the Environmental Protection Agency claims that the “sleepers were being used for improper purposes, in domestic situations where there was a risk of contact with creosote” (I think they mean that they could be used as fireplaces in the home).
Never mind! There are plenty of other things to make raised beds out of (I made a great one out of old books once –maybe not as aesthetically pleasing, but it did the job).


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