Beyond Pesticides Asks EPA to Cancel CCA and Penta

February 7, 2002

Frank Sanders, Director
Antimicrobials Division
MailCode 7510C
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20460

Re: Petitions to Cancel and Suspend Registration of CCA and Pentachlorophenol

Dear Mr. Sanders,

I would like to extend our thanks to you and Connie Welch for meeting with us yesterday. As we mentioned, we are encouraged by press reports that EPA is considering acceptance of a proposal by registrants to voluntarily cancel non-industrial uses of chromated copper arsenate (CCA). But we are also quite disturbed that you are discussing with registrants many of the matters addressed in our petitions of December 21, 2001 without public involvement and input.

As you know, our petitions request cancellation and immediate suspension of all registered uses of CCA and pentachlorophenol because of demonstrated exposure risks. We are particularly concerned about the relatively narrow scope of the reported proposal and the possibility of a lengthy phase-out period for voluntarily withdrawn uses. We interpret the Agency's acceptance of the proposal as described in press accounts, which you agreed are "not totally inaccurate," as tantamount to a denial of most of the elements of our petition.

We believe that the Agency's acceptance of the proposal would prejudice further, more complete regulatory action by EPA, including completion of the risk assessment. If no further urgent action is taken, the result of a phase-out of non-industrial uses of CCA-treated wood amounts to the Agency's approval of much continued CCA contamination and exposure. A large universe of exposure to workers, children and the environment, including soil and groundwater contamination would remain un-addressed. For example, uses such as utility poles (approximately half of which are treated with CCA) constitute enormous continued exposures.

A lengthy phase-out period is simply not appropriately protective of public health and the environment. You have asserted that the treated wood industry may need some time for process modifications in order to replace CCA with less toxic alternatives, but we are aware of facilities that have switched to replacements in a period of months. Thus, to adequately protect human health and the environment, any phase-out and replacement must be accomplished expeditiously in order to minimize further harm. We are confident that our request for suspension will not cause economic dislocation, given the availability of alternative materials.

In our view, the Agency already has sufficient data to support immediate suspension and cancellation of CCA. But, if as reported, the Agency intends to retain industrial uses for the immediate future, we feel it is incumbent upon the Agency to proceed with the full and comprehensive risk assessment because of the need to address the considerable quantity of CCA-treated wood already in use as well as continued worker and environmental exposures. During yesterday's meeting, Ms. Welch commented that "originally" (prior to EPA's current discussions about voluntary cancellation of selected CCA uses), EPA had planned to complete the preliminary risk assessment for CCA "by March 2002 and to finalize it by summer." We see no reason that the proposed voluntary cancellation agreement should preclude or delay completion of this risk assessment process.

The continued presence of CCA in wood products in existing structures and their eventual disposal creates potential for ongoing human and environmental exposures. For instance, we have learned of alarming instances where treated wood is being sold as mulch for gardening. We urge the Agency to mandate a Consumer Awareness Program for re-used wood products treated with CCA and a public educational program for residential uses (e.g., decking and other private structures) that goes well beyond the existing program. To address migration of CCA out of existing structures, we recommend a program to conduct soil and surface leaching tests around all public structures made with CCA?treated wood products, including (but not limited to) public playgrounds, decks and picnic tables. Based on the results, we urge EPA to mandate removal or application of sealants on a yearly basis and that public awareness sheets be clearly posted.

Because CCA-treated wood fails the RCRA TCLP or "leach" test, it is clearly evident that disposal of CCA-treated wood leads to significant environmental releases which the Agency must address to adequately protect public health and the environment, particularly ground and surface water. Thus, we also urge EPA to set national standards for safely disposing of all used CCA-treated wood, and to ban the burning and mulching of used wood products containing CCA.

Again, we support action to reduce CCA exposure, including the proposed voluntary cancellation, but we are extremely concerned that this action may prejudice ongoing efforts that must address broader contamination and exposure issues. We view the long history of inaction on both these chemicals and the attendant accumulation of scientific data and experience with their toxic effects as exceedingly troubling in light of the daily adverse impact that they have on children and the public.

Thank you for your attention to these matters.


Jay Feldman
Executive Director

cc: Christine Todd Whitman, Connie Welch, 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, Sierra Club, U.S. PIRG, and Washington Toxics Coalition.

View the CCA petition and the Penta petition.