17 March 2003
ask for US ban on arsenic in playsets
(Reuters Health) - Consumer and environmental groups on Monday asked
the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ban the use
of pressure-treated wood in children's playsets because of fear
that the arsenic used in the wood's production can elevate the risk
groups called on the commission to ban playsets made from wood containing
chromated copper arsenate (CCA), an arsenic-containing pesticide
commonly used in weather-proof wood for playgrounds, decks and home
also asked the three-member commission to order the recall of thousands
of public playsets made from wood containing CCA and to order the
industry to reimburse consumers who purchased home playsets.
many as 400,000 pressure-treated wood playsets were sold annually
during the 1990s, according to CPSC estimates. Consumer groups have
worried that arsenic-containing residue from the wood can rub off
on children's hands while they are at play and then leach into the
skin or be ingested when children's hands come into contact with
is a known cancer-causing chemical. It has been linked to an increased
risk of lung, bladder and skin cancer.
to the CPSC, children between the ages of 2 and 6 who play on CCA-treated
playsets three times per week face an increased risk of cancer.
The commission estimated this risk at 2 to 100 per million children
greater than for children who don't play on CCA-treated equipment.
groups said that other studies suggest a much higher cancer risk.
Tests of hundreds of wooden playsets, decks and picnic tables show
that residues from them may contain up to 30% more arsenic than
the CPSC study estimates, said Jane Houlihan, vice president for
research at the Environmental Working Group.
group conducted a study that estimated that arsenic from the playsets
could elevate cancer risk by as much as 2,000 cases per million
believe that CPSC has substantially underestimated the cancer risk
associated with CCA-treated wood," she said. Houlihan urged
the commission to "immediately ban" use of the wood.
groups argued that CPSC's study was flawed and that it overestimated
the risk of contact with arsenic from treated playsets. The Wood
Preservative Science Council, an industry-funded group, pointed
to a University of Florida study released last year showing that
CCA-treated wood is safe for use in playgrounds.
put, these experts concluded that potential exposures from CCA-treated
wood playsets are not reason for concern," read a statement
issued by the council.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is currently conducting a
large-scale study looking at the risks CCA poses to children. The
agency is also set to enact rules that will phase out the use of
CCA-treated wood after December 30, 2003.
recommendation issued by the CPSC researchers urged the commission
to defer a decision on the proposed ban and recall until after EPA
completes its study.
is expected that the chemical CCA will no longer be available for
wood for most consumer uses," said Patricia Bitner, a CPSC
CPSC staff also recommended that children who use CCA-treated sets
wash their hands immediately following play and cautioned against
eating while playing on the sets.
urged the commission to enact the ban and recall anyway, since playset
manufacturers will still be able to use CCA-treated wood that was
sold before the EPA ban goes into full effect in December 2004.
CPSC is expected to issue a ruling sometime in April.