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Daily News Archive
From February 22, 2002

CCA Contaminates Port in Africa

Copper chromated arsenate (CCA), the toxic wood preservative containing arsenic, is poisoning the Port of Dijibouti, located on the coast of Africa. Workers noticed leakage when they started unloading a shipment of CCA contained in plastic shipping containers. While 10 containers continue to leak, authorities are taking steps to mitigate the problem.

Both human and environmental health are at serious risk due to this haphazard shipment of CCA from the United Kingdom to the Ethipian Power Company. Previous shipments of CCA were received in steel drums. The use of plastic containers in this instance has caused serious problems. "There is no doubt that the incorrect handling of the chemical has exposed many workers to unacceptable levels of this toxic material," said Kevin Helps of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The arsenic in CCA is a known human carcinogen. He cautioned that proper safety equipment and specialists are necessary to repackage and ship the hazardous waste to a site that can appropriately handle it. Helps also warned, "This work must be completed before the chemical is spread by rains. The chemical is highly soluble and very easily leached from soil. If the chemical were to be leached into the sea, the impact on the fish stocks would be very serious."

Arsenic is a known human carcinogen and has been linked to lung, bladder and skin cancer, damage to the central nervous system, cardiovascular disease, reproductive problems and birth defects. EPA recently announced a phase-out of CCA-treated wood for residential uses due to human and environmental health hazards.

The cost of the remediation is estimated to be $835,000. Helps says the Dijibouti government should put the bill on those responsible for the mishandling. He says, "The final liability for the cargo needs urgent clarification. The party responsible for the leakage and contamination needs to be identified and held responsible."