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Conclusions and Recommendations

Poisoned Playgrounds: Conclusions and Recommendations

May 23, 2001

Conclusions

The United States imports millions of pounds of arsenic every year to saturate wood that is sold to consumers who are completely unaware of the poisons within. The treated wood ends up in children's play structures, decks, and picnic tables, rubbing off on the skin of children and adults who touch it. Over time the arsenic leaches out into the soil below, possibly contaminating groundwater. At the end of its useful life, the wood is not treated as hazardous waste because of regulatory exemptions won by the wood preserving industry. It can be disposed of in unlined landfills and made into toxic mulch that is sold to consumers. Each of these situations poses an unacceptable risk to public health.

Recommendations

To protect children from the harmful effects of arsenic-treated lumber, we recommend:

  • The immediate switch from CCA-treated wood to safer alternatives by all home improvement retailers and playground equipment manufacturers.
  • An immediate ban by the Consumer Product Safety Commission of all CCA-treated wood for use on playground equipment.
  • Emergency suspension by the Environmental Protection Agency of CCA as a wood treatment pesticide.
  • Prompt repeal by Congress of the hazardous waste exemption for arsenic-treated wood.
  • A boycott of CCA-treated wood by the construction industry, at a minimum for all situations where children might come into contact with the wood.

What You Can Do

To protect your family from CCA-treated wood:

  • Make sure that children wash their hands after playing on CCA-treated surfaces, particularly before eating.
  • Don't let children eat at CCA-treated picnic tables. At a minimum, cover the table with a plastic-coated tablecloth.
  • Seal CCA-treated wood structures every year with polyurethane or other hard lacquer.
  • In new construction, use products that do not contain arsenic. One option is ACQ-treated wood.