In February, manufacturers entered a voluntary agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw chromated copper arsenate (CCA) as a wood preservative by Dec. 31, 2003.
The good news: Alternative options for preserving wood offer comparable performance. These include alkaline copper quat (ACQ), copper azole (CBA) and sodium borates (SBX), all of which have been used in the United States for about 10 years. Also, the EPA says it has not concluded "that CCA-treated wood poses any unreasonable risk to the public or the environment."
However: Some remodelers fear that the CCA issue will go the way of mold or lead-based paint, with lawsuits materializing shortly. A recently released study of 263 decks, play sets, picnic tables and the soil beneath them seems to support that fear. The Environmental Working Group, a research group based in Washington found that older decks and play sets (7 to 15 years old) and newer structures (less than 1 year old) exposed people to the same amount of arsenic. The study also showed that arsenic in the soil from two of every five back yards or parks tested exceeded the EPA's Superfund cleanup level of 20 parts per million.
This contradicts a June study by the Florida Physicians Arsenic Workgroup, which found that "the levels of arsenic in or around CCA-treated wood in playgrounds and recreational facilities does not appear to be sufficient to adversely affect the health of children or adults."
Coy Construction in Walled Lake, Mich., builds more than 1,000 decks annually. President Mike McCoy anticipates a decrease in the supply of pressure-treated wood during the transition period, with a corresponding price increase.
Remodeler Mike Carden, CGR, of MUI Corp. in Birmingham, Ala., predicts that the alternative products won't work as well as CCA or will be found to be "equally harmful" in five to six years. He cautions anyone who has put in a treated deck in the past five years to prepare for a lawsuit.
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