Your Health from CCA-Treated Wood
Beyond Pesticides Fact Sheet
Protection Agency (EPA) announced a voluntary agreement with the wood
preserving industry to phase-out most residential uses of the arsenic-based
wood preservative, chromated copper arsenate (CCA). As of January 1, 2004,
CCA-treated wood can no longer be manufactured for decks and patios, picnic
tables, playground equipment, walkways/boardwalks, landscaping timbers,
or fencing. But it can still be used and sold until existing stockpiles
are exhausted. CCA is highly toxic to human health and the environment.
The arsenic in it is a known human carcinogen and has been linked to nervous
system damage and birth defects.
• Look for a green tint on the underside of the wood piece or structure
or at a protected section.
• Purchase arsenic testing kits to see if structures and surrounding
soil are contaminated. Testing kits are available from Environmental
Working Group and The
Healthy Building Network. Contact Beyond Pesticides for further resources
• Do not let children play underneath wooden decks. Also do not
store toys or tools that humans will touch underneath a deck.
• Always wash hands after handling treated wood. Take special precautions
if sawing or sanding treated wood such as outdoor ventilation, using a
drop cloth and dust mask.
• Use a tablecloth on a pressure-treated table. Never use treated
wood for countertops, cutting boards, picnic tables, beehives or for other
applications where chemicals may come into contact with food.
• Seal pressure-treated wood to prevent arsenic from leaching into
the environment and contacting humans.
• Oil-based stains and paints are more durable but also more toxic
than water-based. Water-based paint, such as latex, is the safest sealant
and should be reapplied every year (or more under heavy foot traffic).
Some least-toxic products include Bioshield, Miller Paint, and AFM Safe
Coat stains and paints.
• Try to avoid paints and sealants that contain volatile organic
compounds (VOCs), which can cause headaches, nausea, and other health
problems and have been implicated in indoor air problems and environmental
illnesses. If you must, choose products with low VOC levels (< 200
• Other ingredients to avoid in your sealant include formaldehyde,
fungicide, heavy metals, preservatives and mildewcide.
• Do not treat CCA wood with acid deck wash or brighteners, which
are believed to hasten the release of arsenic.
• Contact appropriate local or state agencies for disposal designations
in your area. To dispose of paint or coatings properly, goto www.earth911.org
or call 1-800-CLEANUP for more information.
• Never burn CCA-treated wood. This release of arsenic into the
air is highly toxic.
• Do not buy or use CCA-treated wood as mulch. In shredded form
it is more likely to leach into the environment and contaminate your property.
• Currently there is no standard for safely disposing of CCA-treated
wood. While studies have shown that new CCA-treated wood routinely leaches
enough arsenic to qualify as hazardous waste, it continues to be disposed
of in unlined landfills where arsenic could leach into groundwater.
• If you can, replace CCA-treated structures with a less toxic alternative
or immediately seal the wood (see sealants).
• Consider naturally pest and rot resistant wood that has been sustainably
harvested, such as cedar, redwood or certain heartwood species.
• Composite lumber made with recycled plastic provides another option.
Make sure the plastic is recycled and does not contain PVCs. Trex Co.
(www.trex.com) and AERT Inc (www.choicedek.com) are two that manufacture
• Other alternatives include recycled steel, recycled plastic marine
pilings, fiberglass and concrete.
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