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Pollution Prevention Tips for Pressure Treated Wood

Industry made a voluntary decision to stop using wood preservatives containing arsenic for residential lumber products by December 31, 2003. The decision affected all residential uses of wood treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) including decks, play structures, picnic tables, landscaping timbers, gazebos, residential Fencing, patios, walkways, and boardwalks.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will no longer permit the use of CCA-treated wood for these purposes. Although EPA has not concluded that there is unreasonable risk to the public from these products, it suggests any reduction in exposure to these is desirable.

This tip strip lists ways consumers can protect themselves from the potential risks of exposure to toxic chemicals in pressure- treated wood. A little common sense can prevent pollution and minimize any associated risks to human health.

What Consumers Can Do To Protect Themselves:

Seal it: Paint or stain treated deck or play equipment to bind loose particles and slow leaching of metals to soil and water. Use stains that penetrate wood with no sanding or scraping that would release CCA to the environment. Apply sealant every year or two.

Cover it: Put a tablecloth on picnic tables. Place a sheet or blanket on decks or benches used as play areas for young children.

Cut it: Work only in well-ventilated areas. Wear air filter mask, goggles and gloves when sanding or cutting the treated wood. Consider using recycled plastic lumber for new construction or repairs.

Lather or wipe off: Wash hands after touching wood. Keep a towel by the door for wiping feet. Don't over wash - oxidizing cleaners, such as bleach, can release arsenic.

Line it: For wooden dividers in gardens, place plastic between wood rails and plants.

Move it: Do not store children's toys under decks or allow children or animals to play there.

Till soil: Arsenic remains close to the soil's surface. Risks are reduced if the soil is turned and covered with topsoil or mulch. Use mulch, devoid of CCA-treated wood.

Disposal: Do not burn treated wood in open fires, stoves, fireplaces, or residential boilers. Dispose of treated wood by ordinary trash collection or disposal services.

Be prudent: Do not use treated wood where CCA would contaminate food or animal feed (e.g., garden compost, bee hives, mulch, cutting boards, counter tops, animal bedding).

Pollution Prevention Unit
NYS Department of Environmental Conservation

625 Broadway, 12th floor
Albany, NY 12233-1750
Tel: (518) 402-9469


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