From: H. Josef Hebert, Associated Press
Published January 9, 2007 12:00 AM

EPA Rejects Proposed Lumber Treatment

WASHINGTON -- The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday rejected an industry request to use a chromate-based wood preservative for lumber in decks and playground equipment, saying it poses a risk of cancer and other health problems.

The Forest Products Research Laboratory had requested that EPA approve the residential use of the preservative acid copper chromate, or ACC, on pressure-treated lumber.

Jim Jones, head of EPA's pesticide office, said the preservative poses a cancer risk to workers who apply the material and those who process the lumber because of its high concentration of a particularly toxic form of chromate.

The preservative also would pose other health risks, including severe skin irritation, to homeowners, children and contractors who come in contact with the lumber, he said.

Another preservative, chromate copper arsenate, or CCA, has been phased out for use in pressure-treated wood since 2004 because it contained arsenic. The industry had viewed ACC as a cheaper substitute than what is currently being used.

The preservatives, which are applied by pressure, protect wood against fungi and insects.

Because ACC contains high concentrations of hexavalent chromium, it is considered a health risk, the EPA concluded. Hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium 6, is a known human carcinogen.

"EPA's scientific review process concluded that the risks associated with residential uses of ACC outweigh the minimal benefits," the agency said in a statement.

Jim Gulliford, EPA assistant administrator, said "the science is clear, the decision is clear" that the preservative should not be used on pressurized lumber that is used to make decks and playground equipment and for other residential uses.

The preservative can be used for industrial purposes such as telephone poles and railroad ties.

Jones said a letter had been sent to the Forest Products Research Laboratory, rejecting its request for a so-called "registration" -- essentially an approval for use -- for the ACC preservative. The group has 30 days to respond, but the decision is viewed as essentially final, he said.

Similar requests have been filed by several other wood products organizations, and those requests also will be denied, Jones said.

The industry groups have maintained that the highly toxic chromium 6 rapidly converts to a less toxic form, chromium 3, and therefore does not pose a risk. But Jones said EPA determined "there could be multiple opportunities of chromium 6 exposure. The science is very clear."

Under pressure from environmental and health groups, the wood products industry began phasing out use of CCA in 2002 because of concern about its arsenic.

Various substitutes have been found, the most prominent being amine copper quat, or ACQ.

Source: Associated Press

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