Use of Arsenic in Wood Products to End

From: Robina Suwol
Date: 16 Feb 2002
Time: 02:23:01
Remote Name:


Faced With Suits, Home Improvement Industry Agrees to 2-Year Phaseout. 

By Eric Pianin 
Washington Post Staff Writer 
Wednesday, February 13, 2002

Chemical and home-improvement industry executives agreed yesterday to a two-year phaseout of the use of an arsenic-based preservative in pressure-treated wood that is widely used for fences, decks, playground equipment and boardwalks in homes and on playgrounds throughout the country. Arsenic is a known human carcinogen, and the Environmental Protection Agency is conducting a study to determine whether children who repeatedly come in contact with the preservative -- known as chromated copper arsenate or CCA -- face a heightened risk of developing cancer of the lungs, bladder or skin, as some environmental and consumer groups contend. 

Home Depot, Loews and other building supply stores and manufacturers of lumber treated with the chemical are defendants in class action suits alleging they failed adequately to inform consumers of the health risks posed by the lumber. In announcing the agreement, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman said that "it will ensure that future exposures to arsenic are minimized in residential areas," adding that "the companies deserve credit for coming forward in a voluntary way to undergo a conversion and retooling of their plants as quickly as possible." EPA and industry officials who negotiated the agreement said that there is no conclusive evidence that CCA-treated wood poses unreasonable health risks to the public. But industry officials acknowledged yesterday that mounting consumer demands for a safer alternative wood preservative that doesn't include arsenic had forced their hand. 

"Basically, we did it for market reasons," said John Taylor, vice president of Osmose Inc., one of the three chemical manufacturers that agreed to discontinue production of CCA within 22 months. Under the agreement, Osmose, Arch Wood Protection Inc. and Chemical Specialities Inc. will gradually reduce their production of CCA to give the estimated 350 wood treatment plants throughout the country time to retool and begin using alternative wood preservatives. The arsenic had been used because it helps prevent rot and kill damaging insects. The agreement applies to treated wood products used for homes and playgrounds, but will not affect production of wood used for utility poles, guard rails and other commercial applications. 

Environmental groups generally praised the companies' decision, but urged companies to stop selling the lumber before the end of 2003. "This product should never have been put on the market in the first place," said Richard Wiles, an Environmental Working Group senior vice president. "It represents the chemical industry at its absolute worst." Jay Feldman, executive director of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, said the EPA should move to ban all hazardous wood preservatives, which he said have been linked to cancer, nervous system damage and birth defects. He said that yesterday's agreement fails to address the major public health problem posed by the continued presence of CCA in wood products in millions of homes and in parks and recreation areas. 

The EPA officials said they intend to move ahead with a risk assessment of CCA begun last spring, at the height of public concerns over levels of arsenic in drinking water and commercial products. However, while stressing that people should take precautions such as washing their hands after coming into contact with CCA-laced wood and never placing food directly on a deck or table surface, the EPA said it "does not believe" there is any reason to remove or replace CCA-treated structures." "Let there be no mistake, we absolutely stand by the safety of wood products treated with EPA-approved preservatives, including CCA," said Parker Brugge, executive director of the Treated Wood Council, an industry group. 

"We also continue to support rigorous scientific research, which has consistently upheld the safety of CCA-treated wood when used as recommended." Stephen Johnson, head of EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, noted that it would have taken the government as long as five years to conclude the review and take appropriate action to remove CCA from the market if the three manufacturers hadn't voluntarily agreed to the two-year phaseout. "This cuts the time in half," Johnson said. The elimination of CCA-treated lumber will dramatically reshape the $4 billion a year pressure-treated wood industry and force companies to spend millions of dollars revamping their factories. 

� 2002 The Washington Post Company

Talk of Biotoxins Raises Concerns in Pasadena

From: Robina Suwol
Date: 21 Feb 2007
Time: 04:10:37
Remote Name:


Talk of Biotoxins Raises Concerns in Pasadena By Elise Kleeman Staff Writer 2/18/07 PASADENA - The city's Health Department issued an announcement last weekend, a curious statement alerting the public to something it then said merited no concern. "On Saturday, Feb. 10, routine environmental sampling detected traces of a bacteria that can cause tularemia, an infectious disease, at a testing site in Pasadena," stated the release. "At this time, we do not believe that there is any threat to public health. Individuals do not need to modify their activities as a result of this occurrence," it quoted Los Angeles County Public Health Director Jonathan Fielding as saying. All other details were vague. The purpose of the testing was never mentioned. The location at which tularemia was found was never given. The press release made the event seem like a quiet blip on the city's air-testing radar. Although who knew there was someone testing the air for biotoxins? As it turns out, the find was part of the Department of Homeland Security's rather quiet bioweapons alert program, and attracted the attention and concern of local, state and national government officials. The program, called BioWatch, tests the air of major urban areas daily for "aerosolized biological agents of interest," said Chris Kelly, associate director of strategic communications for the Department of Homeland Security. Now going on its fourth year, it has collected about 3 million results from around the nation. Last weekend's tularemia alert is only the 17th positive result any of the sensors have detected, Kelly said. As with the Pasadena incident, health officials determined the other alerts were from natural sources, he said. All have involved traces of the bacteria that cause tularemia or another disease, brucellosis. The two bacteria are among the six biological weapons that the program tests for, Kelly said. "One agent is something we'd never expect to see in an environmental area. The rest are all naturally occurring in parts of the country," he added. Further details about which they were or where the sensors are located remain secret. "It's just very important to be able to conduct our work on agents that are known and that are out there, but getting into the specifics ... sort of might compromise our defense systems," Kelly said. When positive results turned up in Pasadena on Feb. 10, health officials were fairly confident from the start that terrorists were not to blame. The tularemia bacteria, Francisella tularensis, appeared only in small quantities and is naturally found in small and medium-size animals, including rodents, rabbits and hares. Still, the find set into motion a pre-arranged protocol involving a wide range of partners, said Takashi Wada, Pasadena's public health officer. Local police, fire departments and hospitals went on the lookout for possible human cases of tularemia, which is not contagious but has a high mortality rate. The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services was summoned to conduct necessary extra testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Federal Bureau of Investigation were also asked to determine the threat posed by the disease and if someone might have placed it there. But by later that night, as expected, the second round of air tests returned negative. "We didn't think that it was anything serious, but we had to make sure," Wada said. "We did have to run through our protocol and it did have to take a lot of work and a lot of staff time. It's nice, when you actually have an incident, to know that all of it worked for us." http://www.whittier

Last changed: February 21, 2007