Chemical News: February 2002
Lumber companies voluntarily agreed
to stop using CCA to treat wood used to build decks, playground equipment,
picnic tables and other residential uses by Dec. 31, 2003. The lumber
industry's decision followed discussions with the EPA and rising concern
from some environmentalists, who say arsenic remains on wood surfaces for
years and can rub off on hands when touched.
Arsenic is known to cause cancer in
humans, but the EPA said CCA-treated wood doesn't pose an unreasonable
risk to the public or environment.
Stephen Johnson, an EPA assistant
administrator, said there is no reason for homeowners to remove or replace
CCA-treated wood now in use. Some studies show that applying some
oil-based coatings annually can reduce exposure to the pesticide, he said.
Two national home improvement
chains will stop selling lumber treated with an arsenic-based preservative
well in advance of a 2004 Environmental Protection Agency deadline. Home
Depot Inc., and Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse said sales of wood
treated with chromated copper arsenate, or CCA, will end at their stores
long before an EPA ban on its use for residential purposes begins Jan. 1,
Between now and the deadline, the
lumber companies will reduce the amount of CCA-treated lumber produced,
replacing it with wood treated with more expensive preservatives that
don't contain arsenic. It isn't clear how quickly Home Depot and Lowe's
will be able to phase out sales of CCA-treated wood. "Right now,
we're not certain how much time it will take the wood-treating industry to
completely switch to the new alternative products," said Ron Jarvis,
Home Depot's vice president of merchandising for lumber. "We should
have a better idea of that timeframe later this year."
Home Depot spokesman Don Harrison
said its CCA-treated lumber has an accordion-style label stapled to it
that contains consumer information about the product. "Every stick of
CCA-treated wood carries this label," he said.
At Lowe's warehouses, CCA-treated
wood has a red-and-white label attached, spokeswoman Tawn Earnest said.
Both retailers also carry additional information on CCA-treated products
in the stores, officials said.
Meanwhile, Inland area lumberyards
said Wednesday they either don't carry CCA-treated lumber, or carry it
primarily for use as a sill plate -- the lumber that rests on top of
foundations -- which by code must be pressure treated.
Most carry other kinds of
pressure-treated lumber, or substitute products made from recycled
plastics and other materials that can be used as alternatives but which
"We phased out (of CCA-treated
lumber) five years ago," said Will Higman, chief operating officer of
Reliable Wholesale Lumber Co. Inc., which supplies wood primarily to
residential tracts and other home builders from yards in Fontana and five
other Southern California locations. Instead, it supplies sill plate
lumber treated with a borate preservative and doesn't contain arsenic.
Borate and other chemicals are
slowly replacing CCA-treated lumber, but most cost 20 percent to 30
percent more, said Jim Julian, sales manager with Champion Lumber Co. in
And some have other disadvantages.
Unlike CCA-treated lumber, borate leaches out of wood when exposed to
water, making it unsuitable for wood exposed to weather, Julian and Higman
While CCA-treated lumber is
sometimes used to build decks in the mountain areas, Douglas fir is used
for 99 percent of the patios and for new-home framing in the Inland area,