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Daily News Archive
From March 18, 2002

CCA-Treated Wood Poisons Couple

A couple's dream home turned into a nightmare after sawdust from arsenic-treated wood made them violently ill. According to the Gainesville Sun, Thomas and Lynn Milam bought wood treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) from a Mississippi-based Home Depot to complete their new log home.

After handling the CCA-treated wood, Lynn Milam developed severe vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and cramps. Doctors found arsenic levels in her system more than 100 times above normal, and said that her husband was probably poisoning her. Local police and the FBI began investigating her husband for murder.

Once the FBI found higher levels of arsenic in Thomas Milam than in his wife, everyone was baffled. After the agency realized the couple had been sawing pressure-treated wood, the criminal investigation was dropped. The Milam's then filed a lawsuit last August. According to the complaint, Lynn Milam was hospitalized six times. Doctors concluded that if the couple had not been diagnosed when they were, "they would both be dead."

Just last month, the EPA announced a voluntary phase-out of CCA by the pressure-treated wood industry. After December 2003, wood for residential uses may no longer be treated with CCA. However, this wood can continue to be sold off until supplies are exhausted. Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, said cases like the Milams is not unusual and will "continue to bubble up as long as the wood is being used."

Millions of consumers have bought and used pressure-treated wood products without warnings about its toxic contents for decades. After the phase-out period, CCA-treated wood can also be given away to unknowing consumers for use in and around the home.

For more information about this issue and how you can help eliminate dangerous wood preservatives, please contact Beyond Pesticides or see our website at www.beyondpesticides.org and select "Wood Preservatives" from the program menu. For a copy of the full article, go to www.gainesvillesun.com/articles/2002-03-17a.shtml.