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Australia Plans to Halt CCA Use on Decks and Playgrounds
(Beyond Pesticides, July 30, 2003)
The Board of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), the agency that oversees registration of pesticides in Australia, announced on July 28th that it intends to stop the use of chromated copper arsenate (CCA) as a wood preservative in certain domestic situations, such as decking and children's playground equipment, by the end of 2003 unless there is conclusive proof that continued use is safe. The Chairman of the APVMA Board, Dr. Kevin Sheridan, said that while scientific opinion on whether CCA poses a significant hazard was divided, the Board considered that they should take a highly protective approach in this instance.

The APVMA announcement comes in advance of the outcomes of their detailed review of the scientific literature, which is currently underway. A review by New Zealand authorities had concluded that there was insufficient evidence at this stage to conclude that these products pose an unacceptable risk. However, New Zealand did support a move away from using CCA treated timber on children's playground equipment.

Suppliers of CCA products had called for its retention unless there was conclusive scientific evidence that CCA poses an unacceptable risk to the community. Dr. Sheridan said the APVMA did not support this approach. He said it was up to the registrants to prove their products were safe. He encouraged suppliers to submit any further data they may have.

Dr. David Loschke, the APVMA's Principal Agricultural Scientist, said the APVMA Board would be provided with a comprehensive analysis on CCA late this year. However, he confirmed that the APVMA takes a protective approach to chemical safety and a number of other chemicals had been withdrawn in the past where the risks were considered unacceptable.

The routes of exposure to the arsenic from CCA-treated wood are well documented, according to Beyond Pesticides. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen with a plethora of acute effects including eye irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, characteristic skin lesions, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart function, blood vessel damage, liver and/or kidney damage, and impaired nerve function causing a "pins and needles" feeling.

In February 2002, the U.S. EPA reached an agreement with chemical manufacturers to phase out the manufacture of CCA-treated wood for residential purposes, such as decks, picnic tables, playground equipment, and fencing by December 31, 2003. The agreement allows existing residential CCA-treated wood and structures to continue to be sold and used, and could be stockpiled and sold for years to come, or even imported from overseas, according to Michael Belliveau of the Environmental Health Strategy Center.

For more information on chemicals used as wood preservatives, including an update on Beyond Pesticides' lawsuit to stop all CCA wood treatment, see Beyond Pesticides' Wood Preservatives program page. For more information on the APVMA announcement, contact Dennis O'Leary, Public Relations Manager, at 02 6272 3797.