Circulating on Industry Deal to Phase-out Arsenic Treated Wood,
Washington, DC, January 31, 2001 - While stories are circulating about a deal brewing between the wood preserving industry and EPA to phase-out arsenic-treated wood, environmental groups said today that anything less than a ban of the wood preserving chemicals, including chromated copper arsenate (CCA), pentachlorophenol (penta) and creosote, will put children and the public at serious, continued and unnecessary risk. The groups, which have petitioned EPA to remove CCA and penta from the market, point to EPA and university studies on health and environmental risks, as well as the availability of economically viable alternatives.
There are a number of principal users of chemically treated wood products, including construction companies (treated lumber), utility companies (treated wood poles), and railroad owners (treated railroad ties). Wood treated with CCA is widely available through retail markets, such as Home Depot and Lowes.
"Public health and environmental protection from these chemicals demands swift EPA action, not long-drawn out phase-out periods, with retained uses that continue to result in public and environmental exposure," said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, a Washington-based public advocacy organization and lead petitioner.
EPA has a history of striking agreements with pesticide manufacturers and users that allow for long phase-out periods without warnings to the public about hazards. Environmental groups are also concerned about disposal of treated wood, which they say should be handled as hazardous waste. Instead, treated wood makes its way to municipal landfills and is often reused in ways that put the public at risk.
CCA and penta are linked to a large number of health problems including cancer, birth defects, kidney and liver damage, disruption of the endocrine system and death. In fact, two of the components of CCA, arsenic and chromium (VI), are classified as known human carcinogens. Penta, classified as a probable carcinogen and a known endocrine disruptor in its own right, is contaminated with dioxins. The National Institutes of Health recently classified dioxin as a known human carcinogen.
EPA has calculated that children exposed to soil contaminated with penta leaching out of utility poles face a risk of cancer that is 220 times higher than the agency's acceptable level. University of Florida researchers have found elevated levels of arsenic in the soil around wooden decks and boardwalks, and researchers have determined that children could get enough arsenic on their hands from touching treated wood playgrounds and decks to pose a significant health risk. Workers who paint penta on to poles in the field face a 100% risk of cancer. The practice of allowing the disposal of treated wood in unlined dumps or its recycling in mulch is exacerbating contamination and risk factors, according to the petition.
Groups joining the
petition include, Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse
of Pesticides, Agricultural Resources Center, Center of Health, Environment
and Justice, Clean Water Action, Farmworker Justice Fund, Greenpeace USA,
Healthy Building Network, Learning Disabilities Association of America,
Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network
North America, Vermont PIRG, and Washington Toxics Coalition.