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October 2004

CCA-Treated Wood Pollution Detection Made Easy

Boston, MA— Arsenic-treated wood has been used for decades in outdoor playground swings, structures, decks, and furniture. Manufacturers of CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) reached a voluntary agreement with the EPA to end the manufacture of CCA-treated wood for most consumer applications by December 31, 2003. However, CCA-treated wood can still pose potential cancer risks particularly for children, as arsenic can leach out of aging wood onto the surface or surrounding soil.

The CPSC reports, “This increased risk to children is primarily due to exposure to arsenic residue on children’s hands followed by hand-to-mouth contact.” The report says, “Transfer of the arsenic from the hand to the mouth can occur during and after playing on pressure-treated wood playground equipment.”

In response to this problem, Don Sackett, president of Boston-based Innov-X Systems, offers a solution to the challenging health threats posed by CCA treated lumber. Sackett observes, “We need to make it a priority to identify sites for clean-up of pollutants and the CCA-wood for proper disposal. This can be done with a simple ‘point and shoot’ Innov-X handheld XRF analyzer. It identifies arsenic in soils or CCA-treated wood in 2-3 seconds, and displays and stores confirming chemical analysis and spectrum. We need to use the tools we have at our disposal to eliminate the risk to our children.” At least 18 Boston playgrounds have arsenic-tainted soil, 10 with dangerously high levels of the carcinogen, according to a recent study by University of Massachusetts and Wellesley College researchers.

Sackett notes further, “Major retailers of home and commercial wood products could face serious consequences if they sell CCA-treated wood for residential use, since only commercial use of CCA-treated wood is still allowed under the EPA ruling. Distributors and retailers of residential and commercial wood grades need to confirm labeling of their treated wood. Innov-X handheld analyzers can readily confirm treated wood labeling at a warehouse, dock or in-store, resolving the problem.”

CCA wood disposal causes pollution, can be costly.

As CCA-treated wood is being phased out for consumer use, the disposal issues surrounding it are now coming to the surface, creating problems as troublesome as the arsenic and chromium in the wood itself. Eventually CCA wood may come to a local landfill at the end of its life, making its identification and proper disposal major priorities. But aged CCA wood is not always easy to recognize, and that can lead to costly mistakes. Recyclers can benefit from a screening tool to separate CCA-treated wood from “clean” wood. That would distinguish what material can be ground-up for recycling as fuel or mulch, or what must go into more costly lined landfills.

Sackett continues, “Innov-X Systems offers a proven and simple solution to the problem of identifying CCA-treated wood, with a portable XRF Analyzer that can positively read traces of CCA. Furthermore, it can identify treated utility poles, railroad ties or other construction or demolition pieces that may be headed for the wrong landfill.”

The analyzer is an x-ray tube-based portable tool, making it ideal for use at fields, landfills or recycling sites. According to the company, XRF provides quantitative, fast, simultaneous analysis of copper, chrome, arsenic and over 20 other metals in seconds - in ppm - unlike colorimetric techniques that take longer and are not always definitive. There are no radioactive sources, thus eliminating costly isotope regulations.


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