Lobbyists Fight School Health Bill in NC
(Beyond Pesticides, June 27, 2006) A North Carolina Senate Health Committee is expected to vote this week on the School Children’s Health Act, a bill that would use cost-savings and low-cost programs to eliminate several toxic contaminants from North Carolina public schools, including pesticide residues, mercury and arsenic-treated playground equipment. At the committee’s June 21, 2006 meeting, pediatricians and state officials spoke in high praise of the bill, but representatives of the ‘wood treatment industry’ appeared in an effort to defeat it out of fear that the provisions on arsenic treated wood could give the industry a bad name.
According to the Agricultural Resources Center / Pesticide Education Project (ARC/PESTED), lobbyists for the Wood Preservative Science Council and Treated Wood Council offered the committee a mishmash of inaccuracies and carefully chosen omissions, which were rebutted by scientists from the NC Division of Public Health and the NC Pediatric Society. In particular, the arsenic lobbyists cited one study by a Dr. Daniel West from California that found no correlation between exposure to arsenic treated wood and cancer in children. That study – available only on an industry website (www.woodpreservativescience.org/) – was neither peer reviewed nor published, and the author has acknowledged that the study was constructed in such a way that it could reach no meaningful conclusion. In contrast, the US EPA final risk assessment (www.epa.gov/oppad001/reregistration/cca/#reviews) on arsenic-treated wood shows that children who play frequently on arsenic-treated playground equipment stand a significantly elevated risk of developing bladder and lung cancer as a result of their exposures.
A 2003 agreement between the industry and the US Environmental Protection Agency ceased the manufacture of arsenic-treated wood after repeated studies linked it with cancer and developmental problems. Arsenic quickly leaches from the wood into the soil and onto human skin in contact with the material. Sealing arsenic-treated wood with an oil- based sealant or stain can reduce that exposure by 86-90 percent. Because of this, the North Carolina Health Commission passed a rule in mid-May to protect children from exposure to cancer-causing arsenic in playground equipment by mandating that childcare centers must seal arsenic-treated wood every two years. The rule also banned new uses of arsenic-treated wood at childcare centers. (See Daily News.)
The School Children's Health Act, (H1502), will protect children’s health by requiring public school districts in North Carolina to reduce the risk of student and staff exposures to pesticides, arsenic-treated wood, diesel fumes and other sources of toxic contaminants. The bill will It accomplish this through innovative policies including Integrated Pest Management (IPM), sealing or removing playground equipment made from arsenic-treated wood, reducing school bus idling, and preventing mold and mildew in school buildings. The bill is strongly supported by the NC Pediatric Society, Agricultural Resources Center, Action for Children NC, Conservation Council of NC, Covenant with NC’s Children, and several state agencies, including the State Board of Education.
If you live in North Carolina, contact your state senator and ask her/him to protect children’s health and vote ‘yes’ on the School Children’s Health Act! Click here to find your representative.
For more background on the NC School Children’s Health Act please see the Agricultural Resources Center’s website www.pested.org/involved/actionalerts/schoolhealthact.html