Pressure Treated Wood
Pressure Treated Wood
Pressure Treated Wood
Over 90 percent of all outdoor wooden structures in the United States are made with arsenic-treated lumber. In nationwide tests, dangerous levels of arsenic were found on the surface of "pressure treated" wood purchased at The Home Depot and Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse. Arsenic is a key ingredient in a pesticide called Chromated Copper Arsenate, or CCA. Arsenic is poisonous and a known carcinogen. In fact, Arsenic is on EPA's very short list of chemicals known without question to cause cancer in humans.
Exposure to pressure treated wood can cause: lung cancer, bladder cancer, skin cancer, kidney cancer, prostate cancer, cancer in the nasal passages, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and possibly death. The standard formulation of CCA used in wood is 22 percent arsenic. In our national testing program unsafe amounts of arsenic were easily wiped off the surface of all treated wood purchased from Home Depot and Lowe's stores in 13 metro areas.
Every other use of arsenic as a pesticide is banned by the EPA. Somehow, a special federal exemption was given to the wood industry, and millions of pounds of CCA per year are injected into wood that is then sold to families all across the country. CCA is not only poisonous to pests, but also to children.
Arsenic sticks to children's hands when they play on treated wood, and is absorbed through the skin and ingested when they put their hands in their mouths. Our test was designed to mimic a small child's hand coming into routine contact with the wood surface, and involves swiping the wood with a slightly moistened polyester wipe, then testing the wipe for arsenic.
Children who rub their hands on a tiny surface area of new or old playground equipment have a one-in-10 chance of coming into contact with 10 times as much arsenic as the EPA drinking water standard allows.
A new study warns that arsenic used to treat outdoor wood products doesn't dissipate with time and that children who play on decade-old equipment are as likely to be exposed to high levels of the potential cancer-causing agent as are those who play on structures manufactured recently.
It has been estimated that one out of every 500 children who regularly play on swing sets and decks made from arsenic treated wood, or one child in an average size elementary school, will develop lung or bladder cancer later in life as a result of these exposures.
Additionally, arsenic in pressure treated wood can leach into the soil putting children who play outdoors at incredible risk. For this reason, the Environmental Protection Agency declared that use of chromated copper arsenate, CCA, must end by December 2003.
But until the lumber is actually removed from the market, the only warning for consumers is just a small label about half the size of a business card that warns of the danger.
Pressure treated wood with CCA can cause many long-term health problems including cancer. Health officials believe CCA poses the greatest risk to children. They crawl across it, hang on it, and swing on it. They get arsenic all over their hands and then do what most children do which is put their hands, resulting in arsenic in their mouths.
Adults are at great risk too. Inhaling sawdust and absorbing arsenic through the skin is very dangerous. However, CCA wood is most dangerous when it is burned and the arsenic is released into the air and it concentrates in the ashes. Just one tablespoon of ash contains a lethal dose of arsenic.
For example, an eight-year-old residential deck in Irvington, N.Y., was found to contain 25 times the amount of arsenic currently allowed in a glass of drinking water under federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards. Decks, play sets and picnic tables at least seven years old are as likely to have very high amounts of arsenic on the wood surface as are newer equipment and structures.
Using wipe tests from 263 decks, play sets, picnic tables and sandboxes in 45 states, researchers found that arsenic levels on wood surfaces remain high for 20 years.
Scientists say there are plenty alternative woods on the market that are resistant to insects and rot without toxic chemicals. But pressure-treated lumber is less expensive than redwood and cedar, and stores say it continues to outsell the alternatives in San Diego.
The following recommendations can help protect children, pets and others from possible arsenic exposure:
1) Arsenic treated lumber is unsafe, particularly for children, and The Home Depot, Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse, and all other retailers should stop selling it. These retailers, many of whom tout their environmental responsibility, continue to sell a product that exposes American families to high levels of arsenic, a known carcinogen.
2) We urge consumers to demand alternatives when they visit their local home improvement centers. Safe alternatives are plentiful, from wood treated with less toxic preservatives, to cedar which resists rotting naturally, to other materials like recycled plastics or metal.
3) EPA must ban arsenic-containing pesticides for sale as a wood treatment pesticide, and the CPSC must ban all consumer products made with wood preserved with arsenic-containing pesticides.
4) Homeowners should replace their arsenic treated decks, swing sets and picnic tables with safe alternatives. If the structures are not replaced, homeowners should seal the wood at least once a year. Anyone who contacts arsenic treated wood should wash his or her hands afterward, particularly before eating. Children's toys should not be stored under decks, because arsenic leaches off the wood when it rains and could coat the toys. Parents and pet owners should keep children and animals away from the dirt beneath and immediately surrounding arsenic treated wood structures. Arsenic treated picnic tables should be avoided, but if used should be covered with a tablecloth.
Legal Help For Victims Affected By Pressure Treated Wood
If you or a loved one suffered side effects from Pressure Treated Wood, please fill out the form at the right for a free case evaluation by a qualified pollutants attorney or call us at 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).