Daily News Archive
From February 13, 2002

EPA Announces Wood Preservatives Phase-out but Victims Want Them Fully Banned

While pleased that the controversial arsenic-based wood preservative, chromated copper arsenate (CCA), is being phased out, victims express concern that EPA will neither immediately nor fully stop public exposure to CCA and all the hazardous wood preservatives.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced late yesterday a voluntary agreement with the wood preserving industry to phase-out most residential uses of the most popular arsenic-based wood preservative, chromated copper arsenate (CCA), including decks and patios, picnic tables, playground equipment, walkways/boardwalks, landscaping timbers, and fencing by December 31, 2003.

It is estimated that the phase down of residential CCA wood affects about 5% of the highly toxic wood preservative market, according to Beyond Pesticides/NCAMP. CCA, overall, accounts for approximately 10% of the market, when including the other hazardous wood preservatives, penta and creosote. In the latest data available from the American Wood Preservatives Institute's 1995 statistical report, 1.6 billion pounds of wood preservatives are used to treat wood, 138 million pounds of CCA, 656 million pounds of penta and 825 million pounds of creosote. The vast majority of wood preserving arsenic, penta and creosote are used in a broad array of products from utility poles to railroad ties.

Those who have been poisoned are saying that the agency should stop compromising with the public's health and ban all uses of all hazardous wood preservatives immediately. Late last year 13 national, regional and state environmental groups petitioned EPA to ban CCA and the dioxin-laden pentachlorophenol.

While the groups welcome any action that reduces continued exposure to these chemicals, which are linked to cancer, nervous system damage and birth defects, they say that there is no justification to allow continued public exposure because alternative materials are available.

"Nothing short of a ban of all uses of the hazardous wood preservatives will protect the public from the chemical's short and long term adverse health effects," said Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides. "Since less toxic and non-toxic alternatives are available for all wood preservative uses, it is wrong and unnecessary to allow any use to continue," said Mr. Feldman. EPA has a history of striking compromises on pesticides. In 2000, despite headlines indicating the "banning" of two organophosphate pesticides, chlorpyrifos and diazinon, EPA's decision left on the market many uses that account for a majority of the chemicals' overall poundage, and the phase-out period leaves
consumers and the public inadequately protected while stocks are being sold off or used in unsuspecting people's homes and businesses.

In addition, according to Mr. Feldman, "The continued presence of CCA and pentachlorophenol wood products in existing structures and their eventual disposal creates potential for ongoing human and environmental exposures," which are not addressed by the agreement.

Beyond Pesticides/NCAMP maintains a database of people who are willing to share their stories associated with the tragedy of wood preservative poisoning. Please contact Beyond Pesticides/NCAMP if you would like to contact these people or for more information about the phase-out at 202-543-5450 or [email protected].