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East Bay Group Pushes To Ban Arsenic-Laced Playground Sets

Mar 24, 2003 | Alameda Times-Star AN ENVIRONMENTAL group with offices in Oakland and Washington, D.C., wants the government to force parks and schools to remove all wooden playground sets sealed with an arsenic-based preservative.

The demand follows the announcement last month by the Consumer Product Safety Commission that children could face an increased lifetime risk of developing lung or bladder cancer from using playground equipment treated with chromated copper arsenate, or CCA.

But the report didn't call for the removal of the equipment, a position the Environmental Working Group considers too lax.

"Arsenic in existing play structures is a public health problem very similar in magnitude to lead paint," said Jane Houlihan, vice president for research for the organization, said in her testimony to the commission.

The federal agency has "severely underestimated," the health risk to children, she continued.

"We recommend that (the commission) immediately recall play sets on public playgrounds," Houlihan said.

Manufacturers should reimburse purchasers for the sets, she added.

Wood preservative manufacturers say most studies show that treated play sets are not dangerous.

They also say a ban is unnecessary because an agreement between the industry and federal government end the use of the chemical in most consumer products by January.

Almost all wooden playground equipment in use has been treated with the pesticide.

The government's concern is that children can get arsenic residue from the treated wood on their hands, then put their hands in their mouths.

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