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Dangers Hiding in Your Pressure Treated Timber.

Most parents think it’s a good thing to have their kids playing on the swing set in the garden or doing homework on the deck. But children who play on outdoor wooden play sets, decks, or picnic tables may be at high risk for exposure to the cancer-causing agent arsenic, which was used in pressure-treated outdoor wood products, suggests a recent study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the University of North Carolina-Asheville’s Environmental Quality Institute. This research found that contrary to previous belief, the amount of arsenic in these structures does not dissipate with time. “The arsenic naturally leaches out and makes it onto a child’s fingertips in the course of normal play,” says Michael Shannon, M.D., acting chief of emergency services and director of the Paediatric Environmental Health Centre at Children’s Hospital Boston. “Arsenic is a very nasty poison that can harm virtually every organ in the body and is carcinogenic.” Though manufacturing companies have agreed to phase out the arsenic-based chemical mixture that’s used in making these wood products, structures that are already in place are allowed to remain.                                                                                                                                       Unless you have a brand-new wooden deck or play set, assume that arsenic is present, Shannon says. The only permanent solution is to replace arsenic-treated wood with safer alternatives, such as cedar and recycled plastic composite, according to the EWG. If that option isn’t possible, every six months apply a wood or deck sealant (available at building providers) that’s designed to penetrate decks; it’ll create a physical barrier between a child’s hands and the arsenic in the wood. Also make sure that you and your children wash your hands thoroughly after touching the wood.

The European Commission announced a ban on the use of arsenic in wood preservatives, except for a restricted number of industrial applications. The ban was put  in place on 30 June 2004, and applied to treated wood. Arsenic is the latest substance to be added to a list regulated under the EU’s 1976 chemicals’ marketing and use directive.
The Commission proposed the ban in 2001 after scientists recommended tougher restrictions on wood preservatives containing arsenic because of its genotoxic and carcinogenic nature.

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