Manufacturers Agree to Transition to Arsenic-free Wood Preservatives

Three manufacturers want to amend their EPA registrations for chromated copper arsenate following the agency's announcement it would phase out the wood-treatment pesticide for residential use.

The Treated Wood Council yesterday announced that wood preservative manufacturers Arch Wood Protection Inc., Chemical Specialties Inc. and Osmose Inc. want to amend their registrations with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for chromated copper arsenate (CCA). The companies plan to complete a transition to the manufacture of a new generation of wood preservatives - that do not contain arsenic - for use in non-industrial treated wood products by Dec. 31, 2003.

"Over the past decade, the wood preservation industry has developed and refined a number of highly-effective new wood preservatives," said Parker Brugge, executive director of the Treated Wood Council.

Home improvement giant The Home Depot on Feb. 12 announced it planned to phase out CCA as a preservative in its pressure-treated wood products. CCA is a pesticide.

Home Depot''s announcement follows the announcement by EPA that by January 2004, it would no longer allow CCA-treated wood for residential uses.

Currently, Home Depot offers alternatives to CCA-treated wood, including composite decking and plastic fencing. The company also offers non-CCA treated wood as a special order product in many of its stores.

"Home Depot will stop selling CCA-treated wood well in advance of the EPA deadline," said Ron Jarvis, the company''s vice president of merchandising-lumber. "Right now, we''re not certain how much time it will take the wood-treating industry to completely switch to the new alternative products. We should have a better idea of that timeframe later this year."

In its announcement, the EPA said it "has not concluded that CCA-treated wood poses unreasonable risks to the public for existing CCA-treated wood being used around or near homes or from wood that remains available in stores. EPA does not believe there is any reason to remove or replace CCA-treated structures, including decks or playground equipment. EPA is not recommending that existing structures or surrounding soils be removed or replaced."

"Let there be no mistake, we absolutely stand by the safety of wood products treated with EPA-approved preservatives, including CCA," Brugge noted. "We also continue to support rigorous scientific research, which has consistently upheld the safety of CCA-treated wood when used as recommended."

To expedite the transition away from wood treated with CCA, preservative manufacturers, suppliers and pressure treaters will retool their facilities over the next two years.

CSI President Steve Ainscough said the transition "will positively position our industry for continued success and growth well into the future."

Under the amended registration, CSI will transition wood treating customers to its ACQ wood preservative technology, an arsenic-free formulation the company introduced in the United States seven years ago.

Brugge emphasized that the manufacturers will continue to produce CCA for industrial end use applications such as highway construction, utility poles and pilings. As part of the normal re-registration process, the manufacturers will continue working with the EPA on performing the scientific analyses associated with re-registering the CCA product.

None of this is good enough for the environmental group Beyond Pesticides, which met with EPA Antimicrobials Division Director Frank Sanders on Feb. 6 to discuss concerns about CCA-treated wood.

In a letter to EPA, Beyond Pesticides explains that "the 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 unaddressed. Utility poles, approximately half of which are treated with CCA, will continue to constitute enormous exposure risks."

Beyond Pesticides maintains that EPA has sufficient data to suspend the use of CCA and a dioxin-containing wood preservative called pentachlorophenol immediately, rather than waiting until 2004.

"The continued presence of CCA in existing structures and their eventual disposal creates the potential for ongoing human and environmental exposures," says Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. He added the group is "extremely" concerned that EPA''s plan to phase out pentachlorophenol and CCA-treated wood for residential uses 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," he notes.

Exposure to CCA-treated wood in playgrounds, decks and parks is one of the most common sources of childhood arsenic exposure.

By Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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