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Australian Officials Recommend CCA Ban To Protect Public Health
(Beyond Pesticides, December 23, 2003)
The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), the country’s pesticide regulator, recommended yesterday that popular arsenic timber treatment products, such as chromated copper arsenate (CCA) -treated wood, not be used in the future for children's play equipment, picnic tables, decking and handrails.

According to APVMA Principal Scientist Dr. David Loschke, the APVMA has insufficient information to conclude that it is safe to continue the use of arsenic treatments for timber in structures that children are likely to have frequent close contact with. It is therefore recommending that these uses no longer be permitted. In a progressive leap, the authority is also calling for the removal of arsenic-treated structures from thousands of backyards, playgrounds, schoolyards and child care centers. In comparison, the United States has placed a ban only on the manufacture of CCA-treated wood for residential use, allowing exposure to the toxic wood through continued sale and use of existing stocks.

Dr. Loschke said that the recommendation is one of a number included in the draft report of the review of regulatory arrangements for the future use of arsenic-based wood treatment products that is now available for public comment. “The review was undertaken because of public health concerns primarily about potential exposure of children to arsenic from close contact with treated timber surfaces.” These concerns are well founded. In February 2003, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced findings that some children may face an increased risk of developing lung or bladder cancer over their lifetime from playing on playground equipment made from CCA pressure-treated wood. This risk is in addition to the risk of getting cancer due to other factors over one's lifetime. (See Daily News story for more information about this announcement.)

"The APVMA was also concerned about the potential for environmental effects arising from the use of the wood treatment products,” Dr. Loschke said. From an environmental perspective, risks were identified in the timber treatment process. The draft report therefore recommends that CCA products be declared Restricted Chemical Products. This means that such products would only be available for use by suitably trained personnel.

Before the APVMA makes its final decision on arsenic timber treatment products it is seeking public comment on the draft review report. All comments need to be received by February 29, 2004.

For further information on the Australian recommendation, contact Dennis O'Leary at 02 6272 3797.

If you are interested in working to end the hazards treated wood poses to children, public health and the environment, see Beyond Pesticides’ Poison Playgrounds Resource Kit.