Urge Gov. Jeb Bush to Take Additional Steps on Wood Preservatives
In light of the recent
statement made by Governor Jeb Bush of Florida that the state will switch
to using wood preservatives that do not contain arsenic in the state's
wood treatment plant, Beyond Pesticides wrote today to the Governor urging
him to take additional steps to phase out the use of treated wood products.
Research has linked all three of the primary wood preserving chemicals,
namely chromated copper arsenate (CCA), pentachlorophenol (penta), and
creosote, to a host of human health problems including cancer, and birth
defects. These toxic chemicals are now obsolete due to the presence of
alternative technologies that are currently available on the market. Beyond
Pesticides asks the Governor to pursue legislative action that would require
the principle users of treated wood products, including utilities (utility
poles), builders (treated lumber) and the railroad (railroad ties) to
conduct studies to determine the feasibility of switching to alternatives
such as recycled steel, plastic composites and concrete.
CCA treated wood has
been in the news from coast to coast since mid-March when high levels
of arsenic were discovered in the soil of a series of playgrounds in the
State of Florida. The arsenic leached out of the playground equipment
that was made from wood containing arsenic and chromium (VI), both classified
by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as known human carcinogens.
In reaction to the discovery of the arsenic in the playground soil, Florida
officials chose to close a number of parks as a precautionary measure.
Governor Jeb Bush said he wants the state's own wood-treatment plant to
stop using arsenic as a preservative. Florida Department of Environmental
Protection officials recently visited EPA in Washington, DC, asking EPA
to reconsider the regulatory exemption that keeps CCA treated wood from
being classified as hazardous waste.
to the problem of environmental contamination and thus human exposure
to these toxic chemicals requires a phase out of their remaining uses,"
says Greg Kidd, Science and Legal Policy Director with Beyond Pesticides.
"The fact is that there are currently available alternatives to most,
if not all, applications for chemically treated wood, making CCA, penta
and creosote obsolete." The alternative technologies include recycled
steel, composite plastics and concrete. "All of the alternatives
last longer than treated wood, do not require costly retreatment and do
not leach toxic wood preservatives into the environment," points
out Mr. Kidd. A feasibility study, conducted in cooperation between the
principle users of treated wood products and the manufacturers of alternatives,
would be the first step towards phasing in the use of the alternative
Some utilities and
local governments have started to move away from the use of treated wood
products. Florida Power & Light has incorporated some concrete poles
into their inventory. The San Francisco Planning and Policy Committee
of the Commission on the Environment adopted a resolution on March 22,
2001 urging Pacific Gas & Electric and Pacific Bell to conduct a feasibility
study for the use of alternatives to treated wood utility poles. The study
is to be conducted with manufacturers of non-wood utility poles. The resolution
also calls for a plan for the safe disposal of discarded wood poles.
The EPA is currently
in the process of reregistering CCA, penta and creosote to determine appropriate
regulatory action given the known hazards from exposure to these chemicals.
EPA originally stated that the reregistration process would be complete
in 1998, the latest information from the agency has the process being
completed in 2003 - five years late and counting. The agency is coming
under increasing pressure to reconsider some of the regulations last imposed
on these chemicals back in the mid-1980s. For example, Senator Bill Nelson
(D-FL) wrote to the Administrator of EPA on March 29, 2001 asking her
to expedite the reregistration of CCA and consider whether mandatory consumer
warnings should be required for arsenic-treated wood. Meanwhile, people
continue to be exposed to these chemicals.
Penta, CCA and creosote
have been tied to a large number of health problems including cancer,
birth defects, kidney and liver damage and death. Penta, classified as
a probable carcinogen in its own right, is contaminated with dioxins.
The National Institutes of Health recently classified dioxin as a known
human carcinogen. Both arsenic and chromium (VI) are known carcinogens.
Creosote is actually a toxic soup containing dioxins and various polycyclic
hydrocarbons. All of the wood preservatives have been shown to leach out
of treated wood.
For more information
about the hazards linked to exposure to wood preservatives see Beyond
Pesticides' two reports, Poison Poles and Pole Pollution. Both reports
on the Beyond Pesticides website.