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Home Depot Drops Lumber Treated with Arsenic
Chain has 78 stores in Canada


Joanne Laucius, with files from Richard Starnes
The Ottawa Citizen

February 14, 2002

Home Depot stores -- including those in Canada -- will stop selling lumber treated with an arsenic-based preservative in the wake of the U.S. Environment Protection Agency announcement.

The green-tinted wood treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) will be phased out of the residential market over the next two years. Lumber treated with the preservative, a known carcinogen, is often used on decks, picnic tables and play sets.

CCA-treated products can no longer be sold in the U.S. after January 2004.

Home Depot's U.S. headquarters in Atlanta yesterday announced that it would halt sales of the lumber long before that deadline.

The Home Depot chain, which has about 1,200 stores around the world, including 78 in Canada, is the world's largest home-improvement retailer.

Canadian Home Depot stores will follow suit. However, Canadian Home Depot spokesman David Day said it will likely to take some time before all of the arsenic-treated lumber is off the shelves.

"We have already bought for a year," he said. "There will be product on the shelves for about a year."

Lumber companies in the U.S., say that the move to stop using CCA was voluntary, based on consumer interest in a new generation of preservatives.

The business of manufacturing and applying the chemicals and selling the treated lumber is worth $6.4 billion Cdn in the U.S. and $750-million Cdn in Canada.

"Basically, we did it for market reasons," said John Taylor, vice-president of Osmose Inc, one of three chemical manufacturers that agreed to discontinue CCA production. "We were responding to both current and anticipated consumer demand."

Meanwhile, Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency says it has been talking to Canadian CCA manufacturers about a voluntary transition.

There are alternate products currently registered for use in Canada, including alkaline copper quaternary, know as ACQ, a wood preservative formulation developed about seven years ago that contains copper and quaternary ammonium compound. It is more expensive than CCA.

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency gave ACQ temporary registration about two weeks ago, said agency spokesman Marc Richard.

"That means not every data requirement has been met," he said. "However, we have enough comfort with it to allow it on the market.

"It will be fully registered once the reviews are completed."

Mr. Richard also confirmed that another alternative, copper citrate, is at the final stages of registration.

The Canadian agency has been re-evaluating CCA for about a decade, and may have results by this April. Health Canada scientists have been warning their department about the dangers for about a dozen years. While it is known that the wood treatment is carcinogenic, the level of risk is unclear. The EPA said it doesn't believe there is any reason to remove and replace structures treated with CCA, and the U.S. Treated Wood Council has said it stands by the safety of the product.

Last fall, both Canada and the U.S. made deals with the industry to carry warning labels on every piece of pressure-treated wood.

Some Canadian cities, such as Fredricton and London, Ontario have already stopped using CCA products in parks and playgrounds.

Some legislators in the U.S. are moving to ban CCA-treated wood for residential use before the EPA deadline.

But some in the industry have warned that while manufacturers are already converting to alternative products, it may take time to shift production. The plants that treat the wood will have to convert piping and other equipment to apply CAQ.