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Daily News Archive
From April 15, 2002

Canada Announces Phase-out of Toxic Wood, Environmentalist Say Decision Should Go Further and Faster

The Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency announced earlier this month to "phase-out" a limited number of uses of an arsenic and chromium-based wood preservative by January 1, 2004. Environmentalists say that the announcement is "insufficiently protective of human health and the environment." The announcement is identical to one announced by the U.S. EPA in February 2002.

Beyond Pesticides, citing health and environmental studies which find high exposure to arsenic and chromium from pressure-treated wood, called for an across the board and immediate ban that would cover all uses of chromated copper arsenate (CCA), including construction lumber, pilings, highway guard rails and utility poles. In a series of petitions to the U.S. EPA late last year and early this year, Beyond Pesticides asked the U.S. EPA to remove all three heavy duty wood preservatives, CCA, pentachlorophenol and creosote, from the market. The group cites the availability of a mixture of naturally resistant woods and non-wood materials for virtually all treated wood uses.

In comments to the U.S. EPA last month during a public comment period on its decision, Beyond Pesticides said the "delayed partial cancellation" of CCA is flawed and violates EPA regulations by allowing the arsenic-treated wood (or "treated articles") to be sold in U.S. stores after the chemical use is no longer registered by the agency. The group also notes that because the decision allows numerous CCA-treated wood uses to continue, and its wood labeling program is "weak, voluntary and unenforceable," public health is not adequately protected. Beyond Pesticides says that uses unaffected by the "phase out," such as utility poles, account for at least half the volume of CCA's use.

"It is irresponsible for industry groups or government agencies to downplay the real hazards associated with use and handling of CCA-treated wood during the phase-out or continued use period," said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. Litigation is ongoing against the manufacturers of CCA pressure-treated wood expressly because of health effects associated with arsenic poisoning. The arsenic in CCA is a known human carcinogen and has been linked to nervous system damage and birth defects.

The state of Connecticut, in a fact sheet entitled, Pesticides Used in Pressure-Treated Wood, recently issued recommendations on reducing the risk of childhood exposure to CCA and discloses the health hazards to children exposed to existing structures built with CCA-treated wood. The Connecticut Commissioner of Public Health told the East Hartford Gazette on April 5, 2002, "[They] are gratified to see that CCA-treated lumber will be replaced with alternatives that will be safer for children. However, there are many outdoor structures already in existence that are made with this type of wood."

"Responsible public officials are taking steps to curtail exposure and use of CCA-pressure treated wood immediately. This should include all uses of CCA-treated wood, from construction material to utility poles," said Mr. Feldman.

For more information, please contact Beyond Pesticides.