Daily News Archive
From May 17, 2002

Treated Wood Contaminates Communities

This week's photo story was sent to us by Tom Gandolfo of Covington, Louisiana. His photo shows a utility pole oozing creosote, most likely pollutinging Covington's groundwater. Most of Covington's citizens get their drinking water from wells.

Creosote is a hazardous mixture of 10,000 chemicals that is primarily used for railroad ties and utility poles. Three of the classes of chemicals found in coal-tar creosote that are known to cause harmful health effects include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), phenol, and cresols. Creosote is made up of about 75-85 percent PAHs, and several of them are known to cause cancer. The American Wood Preservers Institute now estimates that approximately 124 million gallons (1.1 billion pounds) of creosote is used annually, more than all conventional pesticides combined.

On February 26, 2002, citing government inaction to protect the public from exposure to toxic wood preservatives, environmental and public health groups, led by Beyond Pesticides, petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to immediately stop the continued use of the wood preservative creosote. The groups say that EPA has sufficient data on creosote's health and environmental risks to initiate cancellation and suspension proceedings. In the petition, the groups cite cancer and other health and environmental risks from exposure to wood treated with creosote.

For more information visit Beyond Pesticides Wood Preservatives page.