Arsenic-Treated Wood in Playgrounds Increases Cancer Risk
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- November 26, 2003 -- Exposure to arsenic-treated wood in playgrounds increases the risk of cancer in children, according to a draft report to the Environmental Protection Agency by the Consumer Product Commission. Such wood is coated with chromated copper arsenate or CCA, a chemical preservative that protects wood from rotting. Used for treating lumber for decks and playgrounds since the 1930s, CCA contains arsenic, chromium and copper.
Children come into contact with arsenic, a substance responsible for increased levels of lung and bladder cancer, through hand-to-mouth contact with the playground wood. Telling children to wash their hands before, during, and after playing is often ineffective, especially with young children.
Manufacturers of CCA reached a voluntary agreement with the EPA to end the manufacture of CCA for arsenic-treated wood by December 31, 2003. After that date, registration of CCA will be withdrawn for most uses, and the product will no longer be manufactured for residential uses, or for playground equipment, the EPA says. The agency has refused to issue an official ban on the use of CCA in wood because it believes that the voluntary agreement and withdrawal of registration is sufficient (Statement of Chairman, Hal Stratton ).
Since the 1970s the majority of the pressure-treated wood used in residential settings was coated with CCA. Therefore, many wood structures in playgrounds throughout the nation still contain arsenic-treated wood. It is difficult to distinguish CCA-treated wood from non-CCA-treated wood, so parents should assume that a wooden playground structure contains CCA.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the EPA are beginning studies to determine if there are effective methods of reducing the amount of arsenic released from CCA-treated wood. The agencies also point out that manufacturers may choose to make playground equipment out of non-arsenic containing components such as cedar and redwood or use non-wood alternatives such as metals and plastics (Factsheet, CCA-treated Wood in Playgrounds ).
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