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Is EPA Taking A Deadly Turn With Chromium VI Wood Preservative?
(Beyond Pesticides, October 2, 2003) As the wood treatment industry stops using chromated copper arsenate (CCA) by January 1, 2004 to treat residential wood products (such as playground equipment and decks), under a February, 2002 phase-out agreement reached with EPA, reports are circulating that the Symrna, Georgia-based Arch Wood Protection, Inc. and other companies are attempting to bring back another deadly chromium-based wood preservative, acid copper chromate (ACC), to replace CCA. Agency officials acknowledged yesterday that two registration applications are pending before EPA for ACC. CCA drew public and media attention because of its arsenic component, but public health advocates have also pointed to the chromium component as resulting in exposure to a highly carcinogen compound. (See Action Alert.)

Ironically, Osmose, Inc., a wood treater and supplier of wood preservatives to wood treating plants around the world, was the sole registrant for ACC but just recently submitted a request to the EPA to cancel their registration. If the cancellation request is approved by the agency (due sometime in November) then any company hoping to use ACC in pressure-treated wood will be subject to all the tests and data requirements of a brand new registration, according to agency officials.

According to the EPA source, something strange is going on in the wood preservative industry because a number of additional companies were seeking ACC registration when Osmose canceled. "I don't know what will happen higher up," the source said, "but scientifically the chrome issue in ACC is not resolved so we don't think it will be registered soon." However, other sources have warned that higher up, or Mr. Stephen Johnson, EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, a veteran EPA civil servant and now political appointee, may be making a decision as early as this week on whether to grant a new ACC registration to Arch Wood Protection, and others.

While ACC does not contain arsenic, it does contain hexavalent chromium (also known as chrome VI), which like arsenic is a known human carcinogen responsible for drinking water contamination, worker illness, and soil and air degradation. It is also linked to health problems such as kidney and liver damage, lung cancer and respiratory effects, birth defects, and skin ulcers. ACC is also an antimicrobial pesticide, which is generally considered even more toxic and potentially harmful to human health and ecology than regular pesticides.

Groups and people are being urged by environmentalists to contact Mr. Johnson's office and voice dissatisfaction with a shortcut registration of a canceled product and one that is as dangerous as ACC.

Mr. Stephen Johnson can be reached for comments by phone at 202-564-4711, by fax at 202-501-1470, or by email at [email protected].