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Retailers of Pressure Treated Wood Distributing False Information
(Beyond Pesticides, July 25, 2003) In July 2003, Beyond Pesticides sent a letter to EPA informing the agency that retailers of chromated copper arsenate (CCA) treated wood are distributing false and misleading information concerning the safety of this pesticide treated wood. This mis-information, particularly a brochure entitled "Questions & Answers Concerning Pressure Treated Lumber" with the "ProWood" logo on it, is an apparent effort to contradict or downplay safety and precautionary information in Consumer Information Sheets that are to be distributed with CCA-treated wood as part of EPA's Consumer Awareness Program (CAP).

Following a 1984 special review, EPA instituted CAP to mitigate the hazards of CCA use by informing consumers at the point of sale about some of the dangers of the wood and inform them about safe handling practices. EPA found risk mitigation measures necessary to assure that the use of CCA-treated wood does not pose unreasonable adverse effects. These measures were needed in order to continue the registration of CCA. EPA specified certain information and the precise wording to be furnished to consumers in the form of Consumer Information Sheets (CIS) at the point of sale. In 1986, the agency changed CAP to a voluntary program but did not amend the language it specified for inclusion in CISs.

The ProWood Q&A brochure, which was being distributed by Home Depot in June 2003, contains quite a number of false and misleading statements that directly contradict the language specified by EPA. For example:

  • "Same care as with any wood." This statement in the Q&A brochure refers to the CIS but then says that "[b]asically you should exercise the same care that's recommended when you work with any wood... when sawing, wear safety glasses and a dust mask...."
  • "How Safe is CCA? Very Safe." This statement suggests that CCA treated wood could and should be used anywhere. Moreover, statements claiming pesticides are "safe" have long been unacceptable to EPA and have been prosecuted as violations of FIFRA and undermine the EPA-mandated precautions.
  • "Why Can I Use Pressure Treated Wood for a Picnic Table and not a Countertop? Simply because picnic tables are primarily used for serving prepared food while kitchen countertop is used as a cutting surface for raw food." This assertion seriously undermines EPA's mandated statement: "Do no use treated wood under any circumstances where the preservative may become a component of food or animal feed...." Common sense suggests that children's food will inevitably come into contact with a picnic table surface and the brochure seriously misleads consumers about the danger that situation poses.
  • "Can Treated Wood be Used in Gardening? Yes... to construct raised vegetable and flower beds..." This assertion contradicts EPA's mandated warning "Do no use treated wood under any circumstances where the preservative may become a component of food or animal feed...."
  • "I've Heard That Children Shouldn't Play on Decks & Playgound Equipment Made of Treated Wood? Relax. That's simply untrue. CCA treated wood is fully approved and widely used to build playground equipment..." [followed by assertions about studies by the California Department of Health and the Consumer Products Safety Commission.] The statement suggests that no precautions are needed, and might even induce people to build new playground equipment out of CCA.

In its letter to EPA, Beyond Pesticides calls for the agency to immediately contact ProWood and the other treated wood industry groups to advise them that this practice is unacceptable and in violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and CAP. The letter also calls for an immediate enforcement investigation of this situation and for appropriate sanctions. For more information on CCA-treated wood, see Beyond Pesticides Wood Preservatives program page.