Creosote, used to protect woodwork from the effects of the weather for the past 150 years, has been removed from the DIY market, with domestic users required to finish up their supplies by 30 June, when an EU directive restricting its use comes into effect in the UK.

According to the directive, research carried out on mice in Germany concluded that contact with creosote has a greater potential to cause cancer than previously thought, and that the risk posed gives “clear reasons for concern”.

Dr Chris Coggins, director of the British Wood Preserving and Damp-proofing Association (BWPDA), says: “We do support the principle of safety of the public, but we are not convinced by the robustness of the science behind the decision. The arguments that the industry put forward [to the EU] tend to be brushed aside.”

The directive applies to domestic application only, therefore anyone who uses creosote in the course of their business, such as fencing contractors, will not be affected. Professional users, however, become subject to a raft of health and safety legislation covering employees under the Control of Pesticides Regulation 1986.

Although the substance has now disappeared from regular DIY stores, it will continue to be available from trade outlets in 20 litre or larger containers.

Applied to outdoor wood such as fencing and stabling, as well as cross-country jumps, creosote colours, protects against rot and insects and provides a degree of water repellence all at once.

The BWPDA has published a guidance note to the directive. For details visit www.bwpda.co.uk or (tel: 01332 225100).

Read the full story in this week’s Horse & Hound (8 May), or click here to enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week while you pay less than buying it each week at the newsagents.