Don't Play With CCA: 
Treated Wood Still on the Market  
Website Special Article, June 2003

As the summer building season approaches, there's little to warn consumers
of the hazards of CCA treated lumber still filling the shelves at most home
centers and hardware stores. Just a little yellow sticker reading,"Warning, this product contains arsenic... ." 

CCA (chromated copper arsenic) will be phased out for all residential uses as of December 2003, but it is still a popular consumer product for many outdoor uses, including children's play sets.  

What most consumers don't know is that the wood is now banned in all 15 European Union counties. An EU risk assessment found that CCA posed unacceptable environmental and health risks, and made special mention of its dangers for playground use.  America's top product safety agency, the Consumer Safety Commission, released a report earlier this year confirming that children who play on play sets made of CCA wood could face an increased lifetime risk of
developing lung or bladder cancer. And new research has documented that contrary to earlier belief, CCA wood does not become safer over time.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Labour Congress has joined the Communications Workers of America (CWA), representing utility workers, and environmental groups including Beyond Pesticides and the Center for Environmental Health as plaintiffs in a lawsuit. The suit asks US courts to force the Environmental Protection Agency to halt all uses of the wood preservatives CCA, pentachlorphenol (penta) and creosote. They say the EPA has "overwhelming data" regarding the health and environmental risks posed by these pesticides, and that safer, affordable alternatives exist.
"Because of the EPA's failure to act, tens of thousands of our members continue to be exposed daily to dangerous chemical wood preservatives that have severe and debilitating effects on workers' long term health," said Morton Bahn, president of the CWA. The CWA represents workers in the US and Canada who come into regular contact with utility poles treated with these substances while doing telephone repair, service and installation work.

Penta is classified as a probable carcinogen and a known endocrine disrupter. It is contaminated with dioxin, classified as a known human carcinogen. Creosote is a mixture of  toxic chemicals and is recognized as carcinogenic and a nervous system disrupter.

The American Wood Preservers Institute (AWPI), the trade association representing the treated wood industry, has recently closed up shop. The AWPI has consistently maintained that CCA is safe, and that arsenic does not leach out of the wood. Reasons given for the association's demise include the fact that the AWPI has been named as a defendant in 9 recent lawsuits, and that their insurance carrier has decided "not to fully participate in our defense."