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Cedar Chips: Uses and Risks Involved With Cedarwood Shavings

Cedar Chips: Uses and Risks
Cedar chips, though organic in nature, may have some undesirable effects on animals and plants. Gardenerdy discusses the uses and the risks involved with cedarwood shavings.
Swati Takale
Last Updated: Jun 7, 2017
Did you know?
A Russian artist, Sergei Bobkov, creates the most beautiful and intricate sculptures out of cedar chips. However, his creations are not for sale.
Cedar chips are wood shavings that come from several different cedar trees. In North America, these chips are made from the wood of the native Eastern Red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) tree. The cedar wood has natural oils that give out a pleasant odor.
Although this aroma appeals to the humans, insects and rodents dislike the smell because of the intoxicating effect it has on them. Also, certain chemical properties of cedar are believed to suppress the growth of other plants including weeds. As a result, cedar chips have a variety of applications, ranging from elimination of pests to mulching of gardens. However, they are not completely safe to use although 100% organic. In this Gardenerdy article, we discuss the uses of cedar chips and the associated dangers.
♦ Mulching: Cedar chips are primarily used as a garden mulch, which is a mixture of cedar bark and shavings. The chips are usually 1 - 2 inches long and ¼ - ½ inches wide, while the bark portion is stringy. The mulch helps retain moisture in the soil and reduces the growth of weeds.
Garden mulching with cedar shavings
Garden Mulching
♦ Landscaping: They come in various attractive colors that enhance the aesthetic value of a landscape including gardens, playgrounds, yards, etc.
Landscaping with the use of cedar chips
♦ Pet Bedding: They provide excellent bedding material for pets. The chips can be placed in the litter box to absorb moisture and foul odor.
Cedar chips for pet bedding
Pet Bedding
♦ Ground Surfacing: They are extensively used for surfacing playgrounds, jogging tracks, pathways, and animal runs since they provide padding and minimize the chances of injuries during a fall.
Playground surfacing using cedar chips
Playground Surfacing
♦ Pest Control: Cedar chips or sprays can be used in and around the house as a natural way to keep fleas, ants, mites, moths, mosquitoes, and other insects at bay. The chips are also effective in repelling termites, rodents, scorpions, spiders, and snakes. Cedar spray can be made at home by first soaking the chips in water, then blending them and straining the liquid. The chips can also be put into sachets and kept in areas you wish to treat, such as drawers, closets, bathrooms, etc.
♦ Air Freshener: The pleasant aroma emanating from the chips helps freshen up the surrounding air. Hence, they are widely used as air fresheners in areas that lack ventilation including storage spaces, closets, and drawers. They are also effective in covering pet odors when placed in pet bedding.
♦ Plicatic acid is a naturally occurring irritant present in cedarwood shavings. Prolonged exposure to this substance can cause or aggravate asthma, rhinitis, or conjunctivitis in humans as well as animals. The respiratory condition arising from cedar exposure is termed as Cedar asthma. Phenols and aromatic hydrocarbons present in cedar chips are known to cause respiratory problems in animals (especially guinea pigs and rodents).
♦ Direct contact with cedar chips on a daily basis (pet bedding) may give rise to a skin condition called contact dermatitis in animals. This condition is characterized by the occurrence of rashes or bumps on the skin, which may be accompanied by severe itching and inflammation. Some other symptoms that may be observed include problems with breathing and vomiting. The shavings can cause allergies in young pigs.
♦ Cedar chips can affect liver function. They have been found to reduce the ability of handling medicinal drugs in rabbits. That is, a constant or prolonged exposure to the shavings causes the rabbit's liver to produce certain enzymes that lead to removal of drugs from the body, thus rendering them ineffective.
♦ People who use cedar chip sachets in their closet are also likely to get affected by skin irritation and itching.
Skin irritation
Skin irritation
♦ Cedar mulch needs nitrogen to break down since it has a high carbon content. For this, they use nitrogen from the soil, and thus, cut down the nitrogen supply to the plants. This might destroy the plants which require high nitrogen levels for their growth.
♦ Since cedar mulch has a stringy texture, it may get compressed with breakdown. This may prevent the supply of water and nutrients to the soil below, rendering it useless for mulching vegetable gardens.
Cedar chips can be easily purchased from stores that carry pet supplies. A huge pack of shavings will be sufficient for sprinkling around your yard, stuffing into your pet beds, putting into sachets inside your closets, and yet be light on your pockets. But the risks involved with the use of cedar chips, should be weighed before making the purchase.