(Beyond Pesticides, April 18, 2008) On Wednesday 16 April, 2008 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released for public comment its revised risk assessments for three heavy-duty toxic chemical wood preservatives: chromated copper arsenate (CCA), pentachlorophenol (PCP), and creosote. Beyond Pesticides has maintained that the hazards associated with the use, storage and disposal of these three chemicals are unnecessary, given the availability of alternative materials. Let your voice be heard and demand that the EPA protect workers, children and communities from these toxins.Chromated arsenicals, such as (CCA), were widely used to treat decks and patios, picnic tables, playground equipment, walkways/boardwalks, landscaping timbers, and fencing and continue to be used on utility poles and wood treated for industrial purposes. The arsenic in CCA is a known human carcinogen and has been linked to nervous system damage and birth defects. Creosote, a complex mixture of many chemicals, is a restricted use wood preservative used for industrial and marine wood protection. PCP is already banned in several countries due to health or environmental risks under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, which the U.S. signed in 2001, but has failed to ratify. PCP is widely used on utility poles and railroad ties.
Beyond Pesticides has called for a banning of these heavy duty wood preservatives and said that the voluntary phase-out of residential uses of these chemicals does not adequately protect public health or the environment. Even though wood for residential use may no longer be treated with these toxins, industrial uses (railroad ties, utility poles) continue to put workers and the public at risk. Occupational exposures increase the risk of cancers in workers. These chemicals also impact the environment and have been found in surface waters. In fact, the major source of contamination in surface waters and groundwater is wastewater from wood preserving facilities. Individuals living or working near wood preserving facilities are exceptionally susceptible to being exposed to surface water or groundwater, increasing their exposure and risk. These preservatives are also known to leach from previously treated wood. Children are also at risk if they put their unwashed hands in their mouths after touching soil or wood that is contaminated with these preservatives. As a result, public and environmental health continues to be compromised.
On December 10, 2002, a lawsuit, led by Beyond Pesticides, was filed in federal court by a national labor union, environmental groups and a victim family to stop the use of arsenic and dioxin-laden wood preservatives, which are used to treat lumber, utility poles and railroad ties. The litigation argued that the chemicals, known carcinogenic agents, hurt utility workers exposed to treated poles, children playing near treated structures, and the environment, and cites the availability of alternatives. A federal lawsuit [Civil Case No. 02-2419(RJL)] brought by Beyond Pesticides and others in December 2002 to force EPA to act on the highly toxic wood preservatives, PCP, creosote and CCA, was dismissed by Judge Richard Leon, U.S. District Court (Washington, DC) on March 21, 2005. Despite numerous requests by Beyond Pesticides and scientists, going back to 1997, which urged EPA to cancel the “heavy duty” wood preservatives, the judge found that, “Beyond Pesticides did not make formal requests to cancel and suspend the wood preservative pesticides registrations until late 2001 and early 2002.” Thus, the decision reads, “”¦EPA did not became [sic} obligated to respond to Beyond Pesticides until the formal petitions were filed”¦.” Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, called the judge’s ruling “unsound, given that EPA has been unresponsive to scientific findings in a timely manner, and inherently unprotective of public health.”
Beyond Pesticide plans to develop a detailed response to the risk assessment. In the meantime, the organization urges the public to tell EPA that the only way to protect workers and communities from these dangerous wood preservatives is to cancel their registrations. For more information about these wood preservatives visit Beyond Pesticides’ Wood Preservative program page.
TAKE ACTION: Let the EPA know that the wood preservatives pentachlorophenol, chromated copper arsenate (CCA) and creosote pose unnecessary risks to worker health and to your community. Submit your comments no later than June 16 2008. You can submit them online at www.regulations.gov, using the following docket numbers:
CCA: Docket ID- EPA-HQ-OPP-2003-0250
Creosote: Docket ID – EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0248
PCP: Docket ID – EPA-HQ-OPP-2004-0402
If submitting by mail, send to Office of Pesticide Programs (OPP) Regulatory Public Docket (7502P), Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW., Washington, DC 20460-0001.