Posted by Michel (TX) on January 31, 2002 at 04:02:13:
Deal will phase out popular lumber
By Peter Eisler, USA TODAY
Extent of risks may stay hidden
WASHINGTON ? The pressure-treated lumber used to build decks, playgrounds and fences across America will be phased out of production over the next two to three years under a pending federal agreement because chemicals used to protect the wood from insects and rot contain arsenic, a carcinogen.
Environmental Protection Agency officials and representatives of the wood-preservative industry expect to reach a deal within weeks to end manufacturing of lumber permeated with chromated copper arsenate, or CCA, an arsenic-based pesticide applied to 90% of pressure-treated wood, according to parties to the negotiation. Manufacturers would voluntarily surrender licenses to use CCA and cut production under graduated caps. That would allow them time to move to alternative treatments.
The amount of arsenic that leaches from CCA-treated lumber drops significantly as the wood ages, and the EPA will not advise homeowners to remove existing decks and other structures made with the wood, officials say. Painting the lumber or coating it regularly with sealant probably will be suggested as a way to reduce any arsenic risks.
The building supply industry has to “get serious about finding alternatives,” Home Depot spokesman John Simley says. “We can’t afford to be caught without product on our shelves, and (producers) can’t afford to be caught without a market for their product.”
Pressure-treated lumber made with any of several alternative preservatives on the market currently retails for 10% to 20% more than CCA-treated stock, but the material is not widely available.
The phase-out probably will derail an ongoing EPA study aimed at settling debate over the cancer risks of CCA-treated lumber, according to parties to the negotiations. Independent investigations have shown that substantial amounts of arsenic can leach from newly treated wood. That poses substantial cancer threats, especially to children. Industry groups have generated competing studies showing that CCA-treated lumber, if dried and used properly, accounts for a fraction of the arsenic a person might receive from natural sources, such as drinking water.
The elimination of CCA-laden lumber will dramatically reshape the pressure-treated wood industry, a $4 billion-a-year business that provides one of the nation’s most widely used outdoor building products. The American Wood Preservers Institute, a trade group, estimates that 75 billion board feet of pressure-treated lumber is in use nationwide, mostly in decks, play sets and fencing. Parker Brugge, institute president, says any phase-out must give producers time to develop alternative treatments and modify the roughly 350 plants using CCA nationwide.
Richard Wiles of the Environmental Working Group says the CCA phase-out pact should include specific government advice on how to reduce arsenic threat of treated wood with paint or sealant. “People need to be told how to reduce risks.”