The chemicals used
as wood preservatives are the most hazardous pesticides known to humankind.
At the same time wood preservatives are the largest group of pesticides
out of the two billion pound of pesticides used in the United States
every year, accounting for over one-third of all pesticide use. These
include some of the most hazardous contaminants, such as dioxin, furans
and hexachlorobenzene. The effects of these chemicals range from cancer,
birth defects, reproductive problems to endocrine system disruption.
the wood preservatives are everywhere. They are pumped into wood
utility poles --as many as 135 million-- that line our streets and
backyards. Wood preserving plants dot the American landscape and
have contributed to hundreds of hazardous waste sites. A Florida
community will be relocated because of contamination from a wood
preserving facility. Wood treatment workers and those handing the
wood are at high risk. Use of the treated wood and disposal of wood
wate result in human health and environmental hazards.
Why is this
report on wood preservatives and wood utility poles needed?
One of the worst
chemicals on record, pentachlorophenol, while banned for most uses,
continues to be used on utility poles, with nearly half of all utility
poles still being treated with these toxic material. The alternative
chemicals are extremely hazardous as well.
EPA has been
negligent in its attention to wood preservatives. Its special review
process has been undermined by political compromise, with each of
its proposals for regulations being weakened throughout the process.
While Canada has begun to look at the issue recently, EPA has it
on the backburner.
EPA has neglected
to consider, as is its practice, the viability of alternatives to
treated wood poles, such as steel, concrete and fiberglass.
laws have exempted or neglected to require that treated wood waste
be managed as hazardous. Wood plants have gone unregulated. Preservative-treated
wood is ending up in municipal landfills.
are a problem with a solution. They are also a problem with a powerful
industry behind it. The American Wood Preservers Institute and the
Society of American Wood Preservers, in concert with the chemical
and utility industry, have keep t these products on the market and
circumvented virtually all standards of safety.
It will take
an active public to push for the adoption of alternatives and a
more aggressive regulatory climate to provide improved protection
of public health and the environment.
National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides
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by National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides
701 E Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003
202-543-5450 (voice), 202-543-4791 (fax)