Groups Tell EPA to Stop Sale of Arsenic-Treated Wood During Public Comment Period
Washington, DC, March 22, 2002 - A national environmental group today told EPA that the "phase-out" it announced last month of a limited number of uses of an arsenic and chromium-based wood preservative by January 1, 2004 is "insufficiently protective of human health and the environment," and called for an across the board and immediate ban. The Washington, DC-based group, Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, said what is really a "delayed partial cancellation" is also flawed and violates EPA regulations by allowing the arsenic-treated wood to be sold in U.S. stores after the chemical use for that is no longer registered by the agency. The group also notes that because EPA's agreement with industry allows numerous CCA-treated wood uses to continue, and its wood labeling program is "weak, voluntary and unenforceable," public health is not adequately protected.
In announcing its agreement with the wood treating industry last month (announced at 67 FR 8244, February 22, 2002), EPA said, "after December 31, 2003, wood treaters will no longer be able to use chromated copper arsenate (CCA) to treat wood intended for use in decks, picnic tables, landscaping timbers, gazebos, residential fencing, patios, walkways/boardwalks, and play-structures. Wood treated prior to this date, however, can still be used in residential settings." (emphasis added) In its comments filed today, Beyond Pesticides told EPA,
To the extent that this statement suggests that wood treated prior to this date may be sold for use in residential or playground settings, it is directly contrary to EPA's own regulations, specifically the "treated article exemption" because continued sale after December 31, 2003 of wood treated with CCA would amount to sale of an unregistered pesticide which is prohibited by FIFRA §12(a)(1)(A).
In its comments, Beyond Pesticides incorporated its prior petition (filed December 21, 2001) to EPA for immediate suspension and cancellation of all uses of CCA because it says immediate removal from the marketplace is urgently necessary and uses unaffected by the cancellation, such as utility poles, account for at least half the volume of the chemical's use. The group cites the availability of numerous alternatives, including: sustainably harvested and naturally pest resistant wood species, such as cedar and redwood; recycled steel; recycled plastic marine pilings; composite lumber made with recycled plastic; borate-based wood preservatives; and, as a last resort, wood-preserving chemicals that contain neither arsenic nor chromium, such as Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ), Copper Boron Azole (CBA), and Copper-8-quinolinate. The alternatives are cited as cost competitive.
Beyond Pesticides also urged EPA to rescind its exemption of arsenic treated wood at 40 CFR 261.4(b), promulgated under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, because it allows diosposal of wood in municipal instead of toxic waste sites that offer better protection from environmental contamination. The group has also petitioned EPA to ban two other hazardous wood preservatives - pentachlorophenol and creosote. It is joined in its comments by the Agricultural Resources Center, Haverhill Environmental League, and Vermont Public Research Interest Group (VPIRG).
Beyond Pesticides comments on