I don’t make many mistakes when it comes to keeping toxic chemicals out of my house — and off my property. I have an eagle eye for such things because of my experiences with chemical sensitivity and my longtime work to help others avoid harmful chemicals. But now and then the wool gets pulled over my eyes, or I go into denial when I should know better. Case in point for me: pressure-treated chromated copper arsenate (CCA) treated wood.
I allowed myself to be convinced by a landscaper (in 1994) that the type of pressure treated wood he wanted to use was so much safer than in the past that it hardly had any arsenic in it at all. Wrong. He built three terraces on my hilly front yard using CCA. I was smart enough to be better safe than sorry to make sure the vegetable garden terrace was built with stone.
Is arsenic leaching out of the wood and getting into my well? Arsenic is showing up in my hair, according to hair analysis. Is it from my CCA pressure treated wood?
Many people had such wood installed before January 2004, when there was a voluntary agreement between the EPA and the wood preserving industry because CCA was found to be a carcinoge. It can also cause nervous system damage and birth defects. While CCA is still being manufactured, it is no longer used for residential purposes except in specific circumstances, and installers must be licensed to apply pesticides. (The same is true with the wood preservatives pentachlorophenol and creosote.)
Here’s my best advice for protecting against the health dangers of chemicals used in CCA treated wood:
- Do NOT grow food plants inside CCA wooden structures.
- If you have CCA treated wood in your yard (it could be in a deck, playground equipment, walkway, landscape border, terrace … ), have it removed. Check this EPA information on the best ways to remove CCA treated wood and replace it with other, safer wood preservatives.
- If you can’t remove the CSS, consider sealing it. Based on EPA research on which sealants work and how, I am impressed with Seal-It.