Arsenic in Playground Equipment
by GreenCAPE member Holly Young
GreenCAPE's current campaign is to test playground equipment across the Cape and let town authorities know the results.
A 12-foot section of pressure-treated lumber contains about an ounce of arsenic, or enough to kill 250 people
An average 5-year-old who spends less than two weeks on a playset built with CCA-treated wood will already have exceeded the level of one-in-1-million cancer risk that federal pesticide law considers acceptable for an entire lifetime.
A nationwide sampling by a coalition of public interest groups designed to mimic a small child's hand coming into routine contact with the wood surface involved swiping the wood with a slightly moistened polyester wipe, then testing the wipe for arsenic. Unsafe amounts of arsenic were easily wiped off the surface of all treated wood purchased from Home Depot and Lowes stores in 13 metro areas across the U.S.
Arsenic treated lumber is used to build more than 90 percent of all outdoor wooden structures in the United States. The standard formulation of CCA used in wood is 22 percent arsenic.
Wear a dust mask and goggles when cutting or sanding wood, and gloves when handling the wood, the new labels warn.
Zoos across the country have banned wood products treated with arsenic as unsafe for animals, yet Americas children play on pressure treated playground equipment and decks every day
Treated wood should not be used for "mulch, cutting boards, counter tops, beehives, animal bedding, or containers for human or animal food," the warning says.
Limiting Arsenic Exposure
-Do not let children play underneath wooden decks.
-Do not store toys or tools that humans will touch underneath a deck.
-Always wash hands after handling treated wood.
-Use a tablecloth on a pressure-treated table.
-Seal pressure-treated wood to prevent arsenic from leaching into the environment and contacting humans. Water-based latex paint is the safest sealant and should be reapplied every year, depending on local climate. Oil-based stains and paints are more durable but also more toxic than water-based. Try to avoid paints and sealants that contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). If you must, choose products with low levels of VOCs. Other ingredients to avoid in your sealant include formaldehyde, fungicide, heavy metals, preservatives and mildewcide. Some least-toxic products to try include Bioshield, Miller Paint, and AFM Safe Coat paints.
-Do not treat CCA wood with acid deck wash or brighteners, which are thought to hasten the release of arsenic.
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