Lumber Pressure Treated With Chromated Copper Arsenate
Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) is a pesticide that was commonly used up until the early 2000s to protect wood used in outdoor settings from damage by insects, fungi and other pests. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has not banned CCA, but it is desirable to to take the recommended precautions to limit exposure to CCA-treated wood because it contains arsenic, a known human carcinogen.
In 2002, New York State (NYS) enacted legislation that added Section 37-0109 to the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), which became effective on March 16, 2003. This Section addresses playground lumber pressure treated with chromated copper arsenate. Legislation that expanded ECL 37-0109 to include picnic tables on public property became effective on February 1, 2004. In 2003, NYS banned the use of CCA in the construction of any structures at public playgrounds and picnic areas. In addition, manufacturers of chromated arsenicals voluntarily agreed to discontinued production of CCA-treated wood products for homeowner uses by December 2003. So while new CCA-treated wood is no longer available for residential uses, many existing outdoor structures such as decks, fences and playgrounds in both residential and public settings contain CCA. There are several options for disposal of CCA-treated wood.
Environmental Conservation Law, Article 37, Title 1: Minimize Exposure to CCA-treated Wood
In 2002, New York State enacted legislation that added Section 37-0109 to the NYS Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), which became effective on March 16, 2003. This Section addresses playground lumber pressure treated with CCA. Legislation that expanded ECL 37-0109 to include picnic tables on public property became effective on February 1, 2004. Section 37-0109 of the NYS ECL:
- prohibits public entities (the state, its municipalities, school districts, board of cooperative educational services, public authorities, and any agency of any such entity) from constructing new structures on public playgrounds made with lumber that has been pressure treated with CCA;
- requires that public picnic tables and existing public playground structures, made with lumber pressure treated with CCA, be maintained in a manner that minimizes leaching of CCA; and
- requires that the ground cover surrounding public picnic tables and existing public playground structures be maintained to minimize exposure to potential CCA contamination.
Disposal of CCA-treated wood
In New York State, CCA-treated wood may be disposed of in construction & demolition (C&D) debris landfills and municipal solid waste landfills which are authorized to accept construction and demolition debris. CCA-treated wood may also be chipped at a permitted C&D debris handling and recovery facility (CDDHRF) and sent to a permitted combustion facility. CCA-treated wood should not be chipped into mulch or burned in fireplaces, stoves, outdoor wood-fired boilers or open fires. If you have any questions, contact your landfill or waste hauler to make sure they accept construction & demolition debris, or contact the appropriate DEC regional office for information on disposing of CCA-treated wood.
Alternatives to Using CCA Pressure-treated Lumber
There are many types of less toxic alternatives to CCA-treated wood such as plastic lumber, metal, wood which is naturally resistant to insects and decay, and wood that is pressure treated with less toxic ingredients.
- Plastic lumber - most frequently composed of high density polyethylene (HDPE), does not release hazardous materials into the ground.
- Composite lumber - wood and plastic combined into one lumber product is called composite lumber. Wood/plastic composites generally exhibit low moisture absorption and high resistance to decay, insect, and UV ray damage.
- Metal-constructed playground equipment is another option for a durable non-polluting structure.
- Naturally decay-resistant wood such as redwood or cedar offers another alternative to CCA-treated wood.
- Lumber pressure treated with non-arsenic wood preservatives is available in the marketplace. Many of these wood preservatives are copper-based such as ACQ (ammoniacal copper quaternary) compound or CA (copper azole).
For additional information about alternatives to CCA-treated lumber, please see DEC's Pollution Prevention Tips for Pressure-Treated Wood, visit USEPA's CCA website (link leaves DEC's website) or contact your local hardware store or lumberyard.
Dangers and Hazards of CCA-treated Wood to Public Health and Steps to Limit Exposure
The USEPA does not require the removal of existing structures made with CCA-treated wood. However, since CCA can leach from treated wood and contains a known carcinogen-arsenic-it is best to maintain any existing structures containing CCA-treated wood by regularly sealing them and to take precautions when working with CCA-treated wood.
To limit leaching of chemicals from CCA-treated wood: apply a coating at least once a year; oil or water-based stains that can penetrate wood surfaces are preferable to products such as paint. This is because paints and other film-formers can chip or flake, requiring scraping or sanding for removal which can increase a person's exposure to arsenic.
- Saw, sand, and machine CCA-treated wood outdoors, when possible. Wear a dust mask, goggles, and gloves.
- Clean up all sawdust, scraps, and other construction debris thoroughly and dispose of in the trash (i.e., as municipal solid waste).
- Do not compost or mulch sawdust or remnants from CCA-treated wood.
- Do not burn CCA-treated wood, as toxic chemicals may be released as part of the smoke and ashes.
- After working with the wood, wash all exposed areas of your body, especially the hands, thoroughly with soap and water.
- Wash your work clothes separately from other household clothing before wearing them again.
These precautions will reduce your exposure from inhaling or ingesting sawdust, protect your eyes from flying particles, and prevent exposure to toxic smoke and ash. For more information about CCA-treated wood and reducing any potential exposure to arsenic, please see the section titled "Protecting Yourself from CCA Pressure-Treated Wood" in this DEC brochure or refer to the USEPA's brochure on CCA Pressure-Treated Wood: Guidance for Outdoor Wooden Structures. (Link leaves DEC's website)