Industry to remove arsenic-based pesticide from wooden furniture, decks, playground equipment

Wednesday, February 13th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Lumber companies have agreed to stop using arsenic-based preservatives in the wood used to build decks, playground equipment and picnic tables.

The agreement announced Tuesday, which followed discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency, would end the use of chromated copper arsenate by December 2003 in almost all the lumber used for residential projects. CCA is a powerful pesticide used to protect lumber from decay and insect damage.

Between now and then, the industry will reduce the amount of CCA-treated lumber produced, replacing it with wood treated with more expensive preservatives that do not contain arsenic.

Arsenic causes cancer in people. Last year, President Bush reversed his position and accepted a Clinton administration rule reducing the amount of arsenic in drinking water.

Industry officials said their action was voluntary and CCA-treated wood is safe.

``It's a voluntary decision based on customer interest in a new generation of preservatives,'' said Parker Brugge, executive director of the Treated Wood Council.

Environmentalists say arsenic remains on wooden surfaces for years and can rub off on the hands of people who touch it.

``Those who have CCA wood in their yards now should do what they need to make them feel they've created a safe environment for their families,'' said Paul Bogart, campaign coordinator for the Healthy Building Network, an environmental advocacy group. ``Some may choose to remove the wood altogether. Others may choose to seal the wood.''

Stephen Johnson, an EPA assistant administrator, said some studies show that applying some oil-based coatings annually can reduce exposure to the pesticide. He said there is no reason for homeowners to remove or replace the wood.

Brugge said CCA-treated wood is not a health hazard.

``It's important for people to understand why people use preservatives in the first place,'' Brugge said. ``It extends the life of wood products from just a couple of years to decades and makes them safe and stable for use by kids and older people.''