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Arsenic-Treated Wood Can No Longer Be Produced

Dec 30, 2003 | It's the end of the line for some dangerous lumber.

Pressure-treated wood can be found in some 50 million American homes, but research has found that children who frequently played on structures made from this wood have a higher risk of getting cancer.

"What we found is a relatively small risk. Essentially, you're looking at numbers between two and 100 per million that would face an increased risk over their lifetime. We're primarily talking about an increased risk of lung and blood bladder cancer," said Eric Criss, with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Starting Dec. 31, production of chromated copper arsenate, or CCA, treated wood will be banned.

For the last two years, Stauffer's Lumber in Leola, Lancaster County, has been preparing for this day by producing the next generation of pressure-treated lumber with a new product called copper azole.

"In 2002 about 15 to 20 percent of our sales were the new chemical, copper azole natural select. In 2003, I'd say about 60 percent was the new chemical," said Rick Bare, with Stauffer & Sons.

Next year, all of its wood will all be treated with the new chemical. The old chemical, CCA, is arsenic based and considered a cancer risk.

"As of today, treaters like ourselves can no longer produce CCA to go to lumber dealers or home consumption basically," Bare said.

But the arsenic-treated wood can still be used to build boat docks, farm fences and highway signs. It just can't be used in or around homes.

Consumers wondering about old pressure treated lumber in and around your home to do need to replace it unless they intend to literally eat off the wood. If you do want to replace it, the new lumber will cost you 10 to 25 percent more.

The arsenic-treated wood that's on the market will stay on the market, but no more of it will be produced.

Just examine the lumber you're buying to find the difference.

"The lumber will have an end tag on it. If they look real close on it they'll see either CCA or the new chemical it'll say natural select," Bare said.

Manufacturers have produced enough of the arsenic-treated wood to keep it on the shelves for months.

If your children do play on any of the older pressure-treated wood surfaces, you should make sure they thoroughly wash their hands afterward.

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