July 5, 2006

Contact: Jay Feldman, 202-543-5450

EPA, in Secret Deal, Allows Marketing of Wood Containing the
Highly Toxic Hexavalent Chromium

Washington, D.C., July 5, 2006 – Major environmental groups and dozens of environmentalists sent a letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson today challenging the agency’s decision to allow the use of treated wood containing the highly toxic hexavalent chromium. The letter asks the EPA to rescind its decision to allow mostly non-residential uses of the chemical, and make public the scientific basis for its decision.

In a decision negotiated with wood treaters behind closed doors in May, EPA will allow commercial uses of Acid Copper Chromate (ACC), a treated wood product that was removed from the market when its manufacturer Osmose decided to cancel its use. EPA’s decision allows the chemical to reenter the marketplace immediately. The groups say that safer alternative chemicals and materials are widely available in the market.

The letter states that commercialization of ACC will increase the risks associated with exposure to hexavalent chromium, classified as a cancer causing substance by EPA and known to cause non-cancer respiratory ailments, kidney and liver damage, and serious allergic reactions of the skin. In addition, ACC has caused drinking water contamination, worker illness, as well as soil and air degradation. There is increasing evidence linking hexavalent chromium to ingestion as well as inhalation.

The groups and individuals sending the letter cite the availability of Alkaline Copper and Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (ACQ) and other products, which make the introduction of wood containing hexavalent chromium unnecessary.

In the letter to EPA, the groups say, “We emphasize that exposures will not be limited to consumers but are likely to occur throughout the product life cycle. Many Superfund sites, which have contaminated soil and groundwater, were created by treatment plants using hazardous chemicals including chromium.”

The EPA decision will add millions of pounds of hexavalent chromium a year back into the U.S. marketplace. ACC contains 50 percent more hexavalent chromium than Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA), whose residential uses were withdrawn from the market in 2002, effecting a major reduction in chromium and arsenic contamination.