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CPSC & EPA both consider issues related to CCA-treated wood.

Next to phthalates and upholstered furniture flammability, the issue of pressure-treated wood used in constructing playground equipment is the most significant before the Commission.

CPSC was petitioned in May 2001, by the Environmental Working Group and the Healthy Building Network to ban the use of chromated-copper-arsenate (CCA) treated wood for use in playground equipment. The petition also asks CPSC to review the safety of CCA-treated wood for general use. (5)

In 1990, CPSC released a study on the potential risk of skin cancer from arsenic on treated-wood playground equipment. CPSC took no action on the matter at that time. But the Environmental Working Group claims that new data suggest there is a more serious risk of cancers such as bladder and lung cancer associated with CCA.

CCA is a mix of chromium, copper and arsenic and is used generally to prevent infestation of wood by insects and fungus. The U.S. is a large consumer of CCA, largely in the production of pressure-treated wood for decks, fence posts, and outdoor furniture.

EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs is also studying the CCA issue. In February of this year, EPA announced a voluntary decision by industry to phase out the use of CCA-treated wood for consumer use by December 31, 2003. The industry will use alternative preservatives to replace the CCA it currently uses.

As of January 2004 EPA will not allow wood products to be treated with CCA when they are used in residential settings. (6)

Arsenic, the toxic component of CCA, is a natural element in the environment. It is contained in rocks, soil, water, and in air, plants and animals. It is a known human carcinogen, but the key to determining whether it is a hazard is exposure.

CPSC is now studying the amount of CCA released from newly purchased unused CCA-treated wood used for playground equipment as compared to "used" or "older" wood. The question is how much arsenic children are exposed to when playing on the treated-wood playground equipment.

CPSC staff believes children are exposed to arsenic through hand-to-mouth contact when they touch the wood and place their hands in their mouths.

The briefing package is still in progress and staff estimates that the Commission will not address it until January 2003. Since EPA will effectively ban the use of CCA in consumer settings after December 31, 2003, CPSC's involvement in the issue may be short-lived.

(5) Petition to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission to Ban Arsenic Treated Wood in Playground Equipment and Review the Safety of Arsenic Treated Wood for General Use, from the Environmental Working Group and Healthy Building Network, in a letter to the Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, May 22, 2001.

(6) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Pesticide Programs, "Questions & Answers--What You Should Know About Wood Pressure Treated with Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA)."
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Article Details
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Publication:CPSC Monitor
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2002
Previous Article:Staff recommends denial of greenpeace petition to ban phthalates.
Next Article:Public briefing on phthalates petition may be Nov. 8.

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