Consumer Awareness

If anything, the research being conducted in Florida by Helena Solo-Gabriele of the University of Miami and Timothy Townsend of the University of Florida has brought the potential dangers of chromated copper arsenate (CCA)-treated wood to the attention of consumers, particularly parents who worry that their children may be playing in potentially hazardous environments. The research also has emphasized the need for better education about the material, particularly at the point-of-sale.

Earlier this year, the EPA learned that its existing consumer awareness program, which was established in 1986, was not adequately informing the public, according to David Deegan, EPA spokesman. Previously, the agency’s consumer awareness program consisted of wood pressure-treaters providing consumer information sheets (CIS) to all lumber yards and retailers. The sheets detail instructions for handling treated wood products, such as using protective gloves, coveralls and face masks when sawing treated wood products.

But when the EPA realized the public was not always receiving these sheets, the agency, in May, asked the wood preservative industry and the public to propose ways to ensure that information would adequately reach consumers.

Already, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., has held several public meetings to discuss public awareness. And, the EPA is working with the American Wood Preservers Institute (AWPI), Fairfax, Va., to step-up its voluntary education efforts.

“We’ve always tried to get the message out to consumers about the correct ways to dispose of CCA-treated wood and other kinds of treated wood,” says Scott Ramminger, AWPI president. “And we’ll continue to do that.”

As part of these efforts, starting this summer, the EPA says all CCA-treated lumber sold in the United States will be accompanied by improved safety handling information. By fall, stores that sell the lumber will label all pieces of CCA-treated lumber, as well as will receive stickers and signs for displays.

“Now consumers will understand that this treated wood contains arsenic,” says Stephen Johnson, EPA assistant administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances. “I am pleased that the public discussions about CCA-treated wood resulted in a commitment by the industry to include end-tag labeling, in-store bin stickers and signs, and a new hotline and website.”

Meantime, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C., has agreed to ask for public comments on petitions that could lead to an outright ban of CCA. And the EPA is planning to hold a public meeting of the Scientific Advisory Panel on Oct. 22, to review hazard assessment and methodologies for calculating children’s potential exposure in playgrounds where equipment is made from CCA-treated wood.

The EPA also will continue to monitor the success of its voluntary consumer information program. Find out more about the meeting by visiting"

Patricia-Anne Tom is Waste Age's managing editor.