Archive for Sunday, April 28, 2002

EPA warning: Treated lumber presents risks

April 28, 2002

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Have you ever wondered why the wood used in patio decks, privacy fences, picnic tables, playground equipment and landscaping timbers has a greenish tint? The color you see in these wood products comes from a chemical pesticide called Chromated Copper Arsenate, or CCA.

Also known as pressure-treated lumber, CCA lumber is resistant to termites and microorganisms that cause wood rot.

For many years people have debated the safety of these products. Recently, the topic was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

It turns out that the chemicals that make CCA effective at killing insects and microorganisms also can be toxic to humans. Based on this new information, the EPA recently recommended that people take certain steps to limit their exposure to CCA.

For instance, the EPA recommends that you wear gloves when handling treated wood and wash thoroughly after contact (especially before eating or drinking). Likewise, children should wash after playing on CCA-treated playground equipment.

Do not allow food or drinking water to come into contact with treated wood, and do not use treated wood for cutting boards, countertops, animal bedding or containers that hold food or animal feed.

The EPA also recommends against using wood mulch or compost made from CCA-treated lumber products. Do not burn treated wood because the smoke and ashes may be toxic.

If you have a deck or any wooden structures made of CCA-treated lumber, the EPA suggests applying a penetrating oil-based stain to the wood each year to help seal the chemicals. Finally, take precautions to avoid breathing the wood dust when you saw or sand CCA-treated lumber.

Manufacturers are voluntarily removing CCA-treated lumber from the consumer market, effective Dec. 31, 2003. Presumably, some safer alternatives will be developed.

If you really want to build something and cannot wait for the new products, there are many alternatives to treated lumber. For instance, redwood and cedar lumber have a natural resistance to many pests and are often used for decking and privacy fences. In addition, fence posts made of Osage orange (also known as hedge or Bois D'Arc) naturally resist pests and rotting and can be used for landscape timbers.

Do not use railroad ties, as these often contain a toxic substance called creosote. Other substitutes for CCA-treated lumber are made of plastic, concrete and metal.

Have you ever wondered why the wood used in patio decks, privacy fences, picnic tables, playground equipment and landscaping timbers has a greenish tint? The color you see in these wood products comes from a chemical pesticide called Chromated Copper Arsenate, or CCA.

Also known as pressure-treated lumber, CCA lumber is resistant to termites and microorganisms that cause wood rot.

For many years people have debated the safety of these products. Recently, the topic was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

It turns out that the chemicals that make CCA effective at killing insects and microorganisms also can be toxic to humans. Based on this new information, the EPA recently recommended that people take certain steps to limit their exposure to CCA.

For instance, the EPA recommends that you wear gloves when handling treated wood and wash thoroughly after contact (especially before eating or drinking). Likewise, children should wash after playing on CCA-treated playground equipment.

Do not allow food or drinking water to come into contact with treated wood, and do not use treated wood for cutting boards, countertops, animal bedding or containers that hold food or animal feed.

The EPA also recommends against using wood mulch or compost made from CCA-treated lumber products. Do not burn treated wood because the smoke and ashes may be toxic.

If you have a deck or any wooden structures made of CCA-treated lumber, the EPA suggests applying a penetrating oil-based stain to the wood each year to help seal the chemicals. Finally, take precautions to avoid breathing the wood dust when you saw or sand CCA-treated lumber.

Manufacturers are voluntarily removing CCA-treated lumber from the consumer market, effective Dec. 31, 2003. Presumably, some safer alternatives will be developed.

If you really want to build something and cannot wait for the new products, there are many alternatives to treated lumber. For instance, redwood and cedar lumber have a natural resistance to many pests and are often used for decking and privacy fences. In addition, fence posts made of Osage orange (also known as hedge or Bois D'Arc) naturally resist pests and rotting and can be used for landscape timbers.

Do not use railroad ties, as these often contain a toxic substance called creosote. Other substitutes for CCA-treated lumber are made of plastic, concrete and metal.





Bruce Chladny is horticulture agent at K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. For more information, call him at 843-7058 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

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