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The Poisonwood Rivals

The Poisonwood Rivals

A report on the dangers of touching arsenic treated wood
Thursday, November 1, 2001

View and Download the report here: The Poisonwood Rivals

Nationwide sampling by a coalition of public interest groups* found dangerous levels of arsenic on the surface of “pressure treated” wood purchased at The Home Depot and Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse. These twin giants of the home improvement industry aggressively promote their concern for the environment, but they stack their shelves with highly hazardous lumber infused with the arsenic-containing pesticide CCA.

Arsenic treated lumber is used to build more than 90 percent of all outdoor wooden structures in the United States. The standard formulation of CCA used in wood is 22 percent arsenic. In our national testing program unsafe amounts of arsenic were easily wiped off the surface of all treated wood purchased from Home Depot and Lowe’s stores in 13 metro areas.

Measured amounts ranged from 18 to 1,020 micrograms (μg) on a 100 square centimeter (cm2) surface, about the size of a single handprint of an average four-year-old child. This is considerably more arsenic than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) proposed 10 μg per day allow- able exposure level for arsenic in drinking water.** Based on these data and the results of numerous government and academic studies, we estimate that one out of every 500 children who regularly play on swing sets and decks made from arsenic treated wood, or one child in an average size elementary school, will develop lung or bladder cancer later in life as a result of these exposures (EWG 2001).

Arsenic sticks to children’s hands when they play on treated wood, and is absorbed through the skin and ingested when they put their hands in their mouths. Our test was designed to mimic a small child’s hand coming into routine contact with the wood surface, and involves swiping the wood with a slightly moistened polyester wipe, then testing the wipe for arsenic.

View and Download the report here: The Poisonwood Rivals

Key Issues, Toxics, Health Concerns: