Daily News Archive
Wood is a Continuing Issue for EPA
November 14, 2002)
With the Environmental
Protection Agency's (EPA) decision to cancel sale of copper chomated
arsenate (CCA) treated wood for residential purposes by December 31,
2003, many people are getting rid of their own treated wood structures
like play-sets and decks. EPA officials are now concerned about threats
from CCA treated wood to human health and the environment, especially
regarding disposal, according to a recent article in Pesticide and
Toxic Chemical News. Some may decide to burn the wood, which results
in extremely dangerous toxic fumes. Most people, however, have been
contacting their state's authorities for advice on what to do with their
wood when they take down structures. Meanwhile, state officials are
looking to EPA for guidance on this issue.
Paul Liemandt, the
Environmental Response and Enforcement manager for the Minnesota Agriculture
Department, says, "the public is already beginning a wholesale
dismantling of decks and play-sets
The wood is ending up in curbside
recycling piles in large volumes
being sent to inappropriate landfills."
Because there are currently no special procedures for properly disposing
of CCA-treated wood, Beyond Pesticides petitioned EPA in July 2002 to
stop allowing the wood to be sent to municipal landfills. Beyond Pesticides
cites EPA's failure to regulate arsenic in accordance with its own hazardous
waste regulations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
So far, disposal as hazardous waste is an option that has been avoided.
While this represents an out-of-pocket savings for the utility industry
in the short-term, public health and environmental advocates say it
represents a real hazard to communities, with associated long-term cleanup
costs. The Electrical Power Research Institute estimates that "by
avoiding the hazardous waste designation, the utility industry saved
$15 billion between 1989 and 1993." To measure the toxicity of
a solid waste, EPA's Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP)
is used. TCLP tests are conducted by measuring contaminants using an
acetic acid-based leaching solution. If a sample exceeds the TCLP limits,
it is considered a hazardous waste. A study conducted by researchers
from the University of Miami and the University of Florida shows that
ash produced from CCA-treated wood exceeds TCLP limits for arsenic by
a factor of 10 to 100, depending upon the retention levels of the wood
sample, and that it exceeds the Florida Groundwater Guidance Concentrations
CCA-treated wood also ends up in unlined construction demolition landfills
because it is assumed to be non-toxic. Or worse, it is sold as red-colored
mulch for garden use, a recent fad in Florida. Shredded CCA-treated
wood mulch enhances the leaching process, spreading chemicals over a
wider area. Consumers are not informed of these dangers. Of the 29,000
tons of CCA-treated wood that has been imported into Florida since 1975,
less than 2 percent has been disposed of thus far. As the typical lifespan
of this type of pressure-treated wood is 25-40 years, and most was produced
in the late 1980's, the U.S. will have a significant need for standardized,
safe disposal methods.
EPA is struggling with another issue regarding CCA cancellation. The
agency is now deciding whether other uses of CCA-treated wood, such
as agricultural structures and fence posts, should be cancelled as well.
The agency must consider the possibility that agriculturally-registered
wood "could be diverted to non-agriculture purposes
is really fighting with this issue, " said Bonaventure Akinlosotu,
a staffer from EPA's Antimicrobials Division.
Currently, EPA is waiting for a joint study on CCA by the Consumer Products
Safety Commission and EPA. After finalizing the study, the agency will
implement a risk assessment of existing CCA-treated wood structures.
Find out how to protect
yourself from CCA-treated wood.
Read Beyond Pesticides' petition
to EPA to ban CCA-treated wood here.