What is CCA treated timber?
CCA treated timber is timber saturated with a mixture of copper, chrome and arsenic, to effectively preserve the wood and is highly resistant to leaching.
What is CCA used for?
CA has been widely used for many years to preserve timber for outdoor uses such as decking, fences and playground equipment.
What's the basis for media reports about CCA treated timber?
In 2004, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA, formerly the National Registration Authority) reviewed CCA treated timber and announced an intention to phase out the use of such products for certain domestic uses in Australia. This follows similar decisions in the US, EU and a review of this product in NZ. Recently, similarly effective, but less toxic products, have become available.
What are the health concerns about CCA treated timber?
Arsenic is a known toxic chemical. The general population is exposed to naturally occurring trace amounts in the environment, in foods and in drinking water. In relation to treated timber products, arsenic could be absorbed via the skin, inhaled when wood is burnt or ingested via small fragments of wood.
Are there any health risks associated with CCA treated?
There is no evidence of adverse human health effects associated with normal product use.
The greatest risk of adverse health effects arises from:
- occupational exposure during the actual treatment of the wood
- burning of treated wood.
Are there health risks in children?
There are no reports of adverse health effects in children using playground equipment constructed from CCA treated timber.
Should existing timber structures be dismantled?
There is no need for existing CCA timber structures in good condition to be removed on the basis of concerns about toxicity.
Should the public be taking any additional precautions?
If parents are concerned about children contacting CCA treated wood surfaces, maintaining a coating of oil-based polyurethane or paint will reduce any potential for exposure.
It is also generally good hygienic practice:
- to wash children's hands after playing outside, particularly before eating
- to avoid placing food directly on outdoor surfaces.
Other settings where there is a potential for health effects include:
- sawing, sanding or other construction-type activities and handling of recently treated timber. Gloves should be worn and dust masks and eye protection used during these activities. Take care with personal hygiene and wash work clothes separately afterwards.
- contact with soils where sawdust/woodchips from CCA treated timber has been used as a mulch.