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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

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Treated wood could pose a danger to animals, humans
Burning CCA-treated wood is illegal in all 50 states
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Courtesy Photo: Farmers and homeowners should take precautions before building raised vegetable gardens with CCA treated wood.

Monday, July 15, 2013


Burning wood treated with Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) can be deadly, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

CCA is a chemical wood preservative containing chromium, copper and arsenic.

Since the 1940s, it has been used to pressure treat lumber for protection against rotting, due to insects and microbial agents.

The majority of wood used in outdoor residential settings has been CCA-treated since the 1970s. The lumber has been used for decks, playsets, fencing, picnic tables, raised gardens and more.

According to Charlie McGolda with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), when the treated wood is burned, the arsenic in the wood becomes concentrated into the wood ash, making it highly toxic. McGolda said it is illegal to burn CCA-treated wood in all 50 states.

One tablespoon of that ash, if ingested, is enough to kill an adult, he said. It would only take five tablespoons to kill a cow.

"We were made aware last fall of the death of five cows in Bedford," said McGolda.

Last fall, the EPA received an anonymous letter from the neighbor of a Bedford livestock owner. The letter stated that a dead deer had been sighted nearby. Near the deer was a dead vulture.

"Upon investigating, the livestock owner said he had been moving cows from one field to another, when the cows broke the wooden fence," said McGolda. "The damaged boards were put in a burn pile and later burned."

McGolda said the ashes have a salty flavor that animals are attracted to and apparently, the deer had licked the ash and died. Subsequently, the vulture also died.

The owner's cows licked the toxic ash, as well, and also died. A necropsy performed on one of the cows showed the cause of death as arsenic poisoning.

"The owner did get a dump truck and removed the ashes and about two inches of the soil around the burn pile and got rid of it," said McGolda.

Cattle, horses and dogs have been known to chew on fence boards, which could also pose risks, he added.

Animals are not the only concern of the EPA, however, as CCA poses significant risks to humans. There have been reports of serious illness from burning the wood in wood stoves or fireplaces, placing food on CCA-treated picnic tables and eating vegetables grown in raised gardens built using the treated lumber.

According to the the EPA website, the chemicals could migrate from treated wood into the surrounding soil over time and may also become dislodged from the wood surface upon contact with skin.

The EPA suggests taking the following precautions when handling and disposing of the treated wood:

•All sawdust and construction debris should be cleaned up and disposed of after construction.

•Do not use treated wood under circumstances where the preservative may come in contact with food, drinking water or animal feed. Examples of such sites would be use of mulch from recycled arsenic-treated wood, cutting boards, counter tops, animal bedding and structures or containers for storing animal feed or human food.

•Only treated wood that is visibly clean and free of surface residue should be used for patios, decks and walkways.

•Do not use treated wood for construction of those portions of beehives that may come into contact with honey.

•Treated wood should not be burned in open fires or in stoves, fireplaces or residential boilers.

•Avoid frequent or prolonged inhalation of sawdust from treated wood. When sawing, sanding and machining treated wood, wear a dust mask and goggles. Whenever possible, these operations should be performed outdoors to avoid indoor accumulations or airborne sawdust from treated wood.

•Wear gloves when working with the wood. After working with the wood, and before eating, drinking, toileting and using of tobacco products, wash exposed areas thoroughly.

•Because preservatives or sawdust may accumulate on clothes, they should be laundered before reuse. Wash work clothes separately from other household clothing.

The EPA suggests keeping treated wood out of the waste stream by salvaging and reusing it in another application for which treated wood is appropriate.

"When possible, reuse the wood or take it to the landfill for burying," said McGolda.

The EPA said landfilling of CCA-treated wood is the only environmentally acceptable disposal option today.

Currently, the EPA has classified CCA as a restricted use product, for use only by certified pesticide applicators.

According to the EPA website, no wood treater or manufacturer may treat wood with CCA for residential uses as of Dec. 31, 2003.

For new construction, they suggest using arsenic-free wood pressure treatment alternatives or other building material alternatives.

For more information about CCA-treated wood, regulations and testimonials, visit

"Most people don't know not to burn this wood," said McGolda. "Those with CCA-treated wood at their residences or farms need to become aware of this."

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