Wood preservatives campaign gains momentum with recent focus on CCA

FACT: Arsenic levels in soil of Miami area playgrounds found to be high enough to warrant closure of parks. 
ACTION NEEDED: EPA's denial of reregistration of CCA, creosote and pentachlorophenol. 

Beyond Pesticides has written to Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, urging him to take additional steps to protect the health of the people and the environment of Florida against exposure to wood preserving pesticides. Click here to read the press release. Beyond Pesticides then wrote to the remaining 49 Governors asking them to take the same steps to protect the health of the people of their states. In addition, we wrote to the Administrator of EPA, Christine Whitman, urging her to immediately begin to cancel the registrations of the wood preserving pesticides. Click here to read the press release.

The Associated Press reported March 22, 2001 on research conducted in the Miami area that found that arsenic had leached out of pressure-treated wood and into the soil of playgrounds leading to the closure of three parks. In addition, the findings of a study conducted by University of Miami and the University of Florida found an average of 28 parts per million of arsenic in soil sampled from sites across the state, far above the level of 0.8 parts per million the state's Department of Environmental Protection considers safe.

Meanwhile, St. Petersburg Times reporter Julie Hauserman, and Gainesville Sun Reporter Ron Matus have run a series of special reports addressing the risks associated with arsenic leaching out of treated wood. Click on the following for copies of the articles:
The St. Petersburg Times
The Gainesville Sun.

Also in Florida, the Miami Herald reported on March 16, 2001 that a class-action lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of a Miami homeowner who built a deck with CCA-treated wood. The lawsuit names as defendants Osmose, Inc., Hickson Corp., Home Depot and Lowe's Home Centers as manufactuers and distributors of a defective and unsafe product and that they concealed from consumers the potential dangers of harmful effects of treated wood.

This news comes on the heels of EPA's announcement that the agency will abandon the new arsenic levels for drinking water that had been approved by the Clinton administration. A 1999 study by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that the current arsenic standard of 50 parts per billion "could easily" result in a 1-in-100 risk of cancer. The report went on to recommend that the acceptable levels be revised downward "as promptly as possible."

The American Wood Preservers Institute (AWPI), the trade association of the treated-wood products industry, welcomed the news that the Bush administration was shooting down the tougher arsenic standard. AWPI had supported the mining industry's lawsuit against the government's plan to decrease the amount of arsenic in drinking water. The New York Times reported that AWPI spokesperson Mel Pine said "We're very relieved and delighted about what we hear," after he received news that the government would not require a decrease in the level of arsenic in drinking water. That decrease in arsenic would protect children from dangerous exposure to the poison.

Beyond Pesticides has been working on a campaign to educate policy makers at the federal, state and local level, as well as members of the environmental community and concerned citizens about the hazards of the wood preservatives. As part of our "Poison Poles" campaign we have produced two reports, both reports are available on our website. The first, Poison Poles, was published in 1997 and examines the health effects and environmental fate of the wood preservatives, namely pentachlorophenol (penta), creosote, and CCA from cradle to grave. Our second report, Pole Pollution, reports on the findings of EPA's preliminary science chapter on penta. Two examples: 1) EPA determined that children face a risk of cancer 220 times higher than acceptable from exposure to soil contaminated with penta leaching from utility poles; 2) workers that apply penta to poles in the field face a risk of cancer that is 3.4 million times higher than acceptable. The report also covers the results of our utility survey. The survey asked utilities about their policies regarding use, retreatment and disposal of wood poles. 

There currently exists a variety of alternative technologies for all uses of treated wood. These alternatives include recycled steel, plastics and concrete. A number of newer chemicals including ammonical copper quaternary (ACQ) are being considered as alternative treatments. We currently do not know enough about the alternative chemicals. We are concerned that manufacturers of treated wood and lumber yards will shift to these alternative chemicals claiming that the chemicals are perfectly safe before all the facts are in.

We need to strike while the iron is hot. Please contact your elected officials and the new Administrator of EPA. Educate them about the hazards associated with the continued use of CCA, penta and creosote. 

For more information contact: 

John Kepner
Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides 
701 E Street, S.E., Suite 200 
Washington, DC 20003 
phone: 202-543-5450 
fax: 202-543-4791 
[email protected]