Centers Gain Protection from Arsenic- Treated Wood
(Beyond Pesticides, May 15, 2006) The North Carolina Health Commission recently passed a new rule for child-care centers that will protect children from exposure to cancer-causing arsenic in playground equipment. The will rule require child care centers to seal arsenic-treated wood every two years, and make contaminated soil inaccessible to children, as well as banning new uses of arsenic-treated wood at child care centers.
According to Agricultural Resource Center and Pesticide Education Project, the Commission received a record number of public comments in support of the new rule. In 2005 the Children's Environmental Health Branch of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR), proposed an amendment to the North Carolina childcare sanitation rule that includes sealing playground equipment made with arsenic-treated wood to prevent young children's exposure to cancer-causing arsenic.
The proposed rule came under heavy fire from the wood treatment industry, which argued that children's exposures from arsenic-treated wood do not pose a health threat, despite voluminous government research to the contrary. Arsenic-treated wood is no longer manufactured for most non-industrial uses in the US since a 2003 agreement between the industry and the US Environmental Protection Agency, because arsenic readily leaches from the treated wood and can be easily picked up by human hands. Arsenic is well known to cause cancer and developmental problems in humans; it is also well established that exposures from touching treated wood, and the soil around the wood, dramatically increase arsenic exposure. Sealing arsenic-treated wood with an oil- based sealant or stain can reduce that exposure by 86-90 percent.
The North Carolina Legislature is currently considering a bill, the School Children's Health Act (H 1502) that addresses arsenic-treated wood and four other toxic contaminants in NC public schools. Learn more about the bill at: http://www.pested.org/involved/actionalerts/schoolhealthact.html.
See Beyond Pesticides CCA ChemWATCH fact sheet for more information about the toxicity of arsenic.