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Dangerous Wood?

Feb 12, 2003 |

In park benches, power poles and playgrounds, C.C.A. treated wood is everywhere. C.C.A., which stands for chromated copper arsenate, kills off termites and other pests, but it may also be deadly for humans.

Some researchers believe C.C.A. treated wood leaches unsafe levels of arsenic into the ground. Ground that kids come in contact with.

As she watches her children play on a local C.C.A. treated wood playground, Claire Hopkins is worried.

“As a parent, it’s always very concerning,” she says. “You have to, unfortunately these days, look at the material in the toys your kids are playing with, what they’re drinking or eating. So it’s a concern to me, very much so.”

It concerns the Consumer Product Safety Commission too. It says between 2 to 100 children out of every million will develop bladder and lung cancer from prolonged exposure to wood treated with arsenic. Government scientists say kids playing on wooden playgrounds have a higher risk of cancer from arsenic exposure.

So the Environmental Protection agency is conducting a study to find out just how much of the wood is toxic. That study will be released later on this year. But the agency is also banning the wood for residential uses, like porches, patios and picnic tables, at the end of this year.

But someone could still buy the wood for something non-residential, like a boat ramp, and conceivably, us it for what ever they wanted when they get home.

So Phillip Reid, owner of Portland Forest Products in Panama City Beach, says the ban will be hard to enforce. And he’s also not too sure about the risks. He’s been working with C.C.A. treated lumber since 1959 and neither he, nor anyone he knows, has ever gotten sick from it.

Reid says the ban will leave many people across the Southeast out of a job. He says it’s forcing manufactures to find a new way to pressure treat wood, and the consumer will ultimately pay the price.

“It will cost the consumer about 25 percent more,” he says. “And be less effective then what’s been on the market for the last 70 years.”

But as a mother, Claire Hopkins says if there’s even a chance the wood could be dangerous, a rise in cost is worth paying an even higher price with the lives of children.

Steve Moore, director of the Bay County Parks and Recreation Department, says he has been watching the C.C.A. research closely. He says he’s waiting for the E.P.A. study about the wood, and if anything can be used to treat what’s already been built with it. When all the research is in, he says he’ll take action.

In the meantime, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says when sawing treated wood, wear a mask and dispose of the sawdust. Also, never burn the wood in outdoor fires or fireplaces. Do not use treated wood as a cutting board and make children wash their hands after playing in a C.C.A. treated playground.

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