Arsenic Treated Wood

From: Center for Environmental Health
Date: 25 May 2005
Time: 18:28:43
Remote Name:


What Parents Should Know About Arsenic-Treated Wood.

Are you and your children at risk from arsenic exposure? This threat could be in your backyard, park facilities, and picnic areas from Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) treated lumber. This type of wood has been widely used to build common outdoor equipment such as decks, playground structures, and picnic tables since the 1970’s.

CCA has been used as a preservative to protect wood for outdoor structures from insects, mold, and weather, but research has shown that arsenic is continually leaching out to the surface of the wood. Arsenic is known to cause cancer in humans and can trigger other severe health problems.

Young children are particularly vulnerable to this toxin because they engage in a lot of hand-to-mouth contact, which is the primary way children are directly exposed to arsenic after touching CCA-treated wood. Children’s bodies are still developing so they are less able to metabolize arsenic than adults.

In addition, arsenic can leach into the soil directly below CCA-treated wood structures and can contaminate objects stored underneath them. Gardening and growing vegetables in soils near CCA-treated wood is not recommended. Adults may be at risk of acute arsenic poisoning if they saw, sand or burn CCA-treated wood. Arsenic is an even more powerful carcinogen when inhaled than when ingested (swallowed).

To protect yourself and your children from arsenic exposure, be sure to not eat anything directly off of wooden picnic tables and wash your child’s and your hands after touching the wooden structures. “Arsenic is even more dangerous than previously believed,” says Sue Chiang, CEH’s Safe Playgrounds Project Director. “Arsenic exposure from treated wood is an avoidable, unnecessary risk.

The public should be informed not to handle (e.g., saw, sand or burn) any unknown wood source – even in their own backyards - without first finding out if it is arsenic-treated.”

You can find more information about arsenic-treated wood, practical steps that parents can take, and where to get a simple arsenic home test kit by visiting the Center for Environmental Health’s Safe Playgrounds Project website at You may also call our toll-free hotline at (877) 604-KIDS

Last changed: March 14, 2006