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What Trees Are Telephone Poles Made Of?

According to a report by the Environmental Literacy Counsel, as of 2005 there were roughly 120 million utility poles in service in the United States. Most of these were made from wood.

Harvested wood

According to a report by the Environmental Literacy Counsel, as of 2005 there were roughly 120 million utility poles in service in the United States.  Most of these were made from wood.


Sources

Wooden utility poles

Dozens of companies in the United States and Canada harvest wood and process it into poles for sale to the utility industry. 


Common Materials

Aluminum utility pole

The majority of wooden utility poles are made from Southern Yellow Pine which has been pressure treated with Chromated Copper Arsenate or CCA.  This formula is made from chromium, copper and arsenic.


Other Trees Commonly Used

Manufacturers of utility poles also harvest Douglas fir, jack pine, lodgepole pine, Pacific silver fir and western red cedar. 


Alternatives to Wood

Many environmentalists support the use of alternative materials for utility poles.  These include composite materials, aluminum, steel and even concrete.

Installing utility lines underground is another alternative to wooden pressure-treated poles. 


The Wood Industry Position

Partly processed lumber

The lumber industry represented by the North American Wood Pole Counsel argues that wood poles are a better and more cost-effective alternative to man-made materials and that safety concerns regarding the effects of treatment chemicals on groundwater supplies are exaggerated.  Many experts outside of the industry disagree.

About the Author

Lois Lawrence is an attorney and freelance writer living and working in Stonington, Conn. She has written on many subjects including travel, food, consumerism, relationships, insurance and law. Lawrence earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1976, and a Juris Doctor degree from Boston University School of Law in 1979.

Photo Credits

  • truck load of logs image by Jim Parkin from Fotolia.com
  • truck load of logs image by Jim Parkin from Fotolia.com
  • power poles #3 image by Aaron Kohr from Fotolia.com
  • electricity5 image by Amer Delibasic from Fotolia.com
  • lumber processing 5 image by Jim Parkin from Fotolia.com