Daily News Archive
From February 8, 2002

Public Interest Groups Tell EPA to Fully Protect Public from Wood Preservatives

In a meeting with the DC-based environmental health group Beyond Pesticides on February 6 2002, EPA Antimicrobials Division Director Frank Sanders would not deny reports of an imminent deal with major manufacturers of pressure treated wood. Mr. Sanders, in charge of evaluating the controversial arsenic-based wood preservatives, told Beyond Pesticides that the agency is always willing to receive voluntary cancellations from pesticide registrants. He would not confirm, however, whether the agency would be willing to drop its ongoing risk assessment of chromated copper arsenic (CCA), one of the major wood preservatives, in exchange for a phase-out of certain residential uses of the chemical, commonly used in wood products for decks and playground equipment.

In response to the meeting, Beyond Pesticides fired off a letter to EPA today, urging the agency to move ahead with a phase-out that is quick and broader in scope. In its letter, Beyond Pesticides' executive director Jay Feldman, said, "We are particularly concerned about the relatively narrow scope of the reported proposal and about the possibility of a lengthy phase?out period for voluntarily withdrawn uses." The letter reminds EPA of the petition submitted by Beyond Pesticides and 12 national, regional and state groups in December 2001 to immediately suspend the use of CCA and the dioxin-laden wood preservative pentachlorophenol (penta). The letter continues, "We interpret the Agency's acceptance of the proposal, as described in press accounts (which you agreed are "not totally inaccurate"), as tantamount to a denial of most of the elements of our petition."

In its letter, Beyond Pesticides tells the agency that, "acceptance of the proposal would prejudice further, more complete regulatory action by EPA, including completion of the risk assessment. If no further urgent action is taken, the resulting phase-out of only non-industrial uses of CCA-treated wood is equivocal to the Agency's approval of continued CCA contamination and exposure. Exposure to workers, children and the environment, including soil and groundwater contamination, would remain un-addressed. Utility poles, approximately half of which are treated with CCA, will continue to constitute enormous exposure risks."
The petitioners, as indicated in their petition, maintain that EPA has sufficient data to suspend the use of CCA and penta immediately. Today's letter states that EPA has a responsibility to oversee a cleanup of contamination associated with the use of CCA and other wood preservatives. "The continued presence of CCA in existing structures and their eventual disposal creates the potential for ongoing human and environmental exposures," said Mr. Feldman. He continued, "We are confident that, given the availability of alternative materials, our request for suspension will not cause economic dislocation."

The letter concludes, "[W]e are extremely concerned that this action may prejudice ongoing efforts to address broader contamination and exposure issues. We view the long history of inaction on both these chemicals and the attendant accumulation of scientific data and experience with their toxic effects as exceedingly troubling, in light of the daily adverse impact that they have on children and the public."

Copies of our petitions can be found on our website at www.beyondpesticides.org. Groups joining the petitions include, Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, Agricultural Resources Center, Center of Health, Environment and Justice, Clean Water Action, Farmworker Justice Fund, Greenpeace USA, Healthy Building Network, Learning Disabilities Association of America, Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network North America, Vermont PIRG, Sierra Club, U.S. PIRG, and Washington Toxics Coalition.