Wood Preservative Science Council - Center for facts about CCA-Treated Wood
CCA-Treated Wood in Playgrounds

Current as of April 2008

Playgrounds and Decks

The safety of playsets and decks constructed from chromated copper arsenate (CCA)-treated wood has been evaluated by various government agencies and organizations over the past decade, particularly in relation to potential risks to any children who play on those structures.  Different approaches have been taken to the evaluations, but all have agreed that structures constructed from CCA-treated wood present no hazard associated with CCA.

The Florida Department of Health appointed a panel of six physicians to investigate the issue of CCA-treated wood playground equipment. On June 14, 2002, a report was submitted by the panel, called the Florida Physicians Arsenic Workgroup. Here are excerpts:

The available data have not demonstrated any clinical disease associated with arsenic exposure from this use of the CCA-treated wood. In addition, there have been no reported clinical cases of arsenic-induced manifestations that would be concordant with an excessive exposure to arsenic contaminated soil resulting from use of CCA-treated wood at playground and recreational facilities.

Used since the 1960s, CCA-treated wood has never been linked to skin diseases or cancer in children exposed during recreational use.

…the Physicians Arsenic Work Group agrees with and supports the United States Environmental Protection Agency's directive that "EPA does not recommend consumers replace or remove existing structures made with CCA-treated wood or the soil surrounding those structures."

A study conducted by the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California-Davis (West, et al 2004) analyzing cancer incidence data from the National Cancer Institute from 1973-1999 concluded:

"Our findings provide preliminary epidemiological evidence supporting risk assessments suggesting that routine play on wood structures made from CCA-preserved wood does not increase cancer risk."

Scientific studies have been conducted and published on specific evaluations of the potential exposure to arsenic resulting from children playing on CCA-treated structures.

In 2004, researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, evaluated potential exposures to children playing on playsets made from CCA-treated wood.  They concluded that the levels of dislodgeable residues found were far below those which normally occur in diet and drinking water. 

(Kwon, E., Zhang, H., Wang, Z., Ghangri, G.S., Lu, X., Fok, N.,Gabos, S., Li, X., and Le, X.C..  2004.  Arsenic on the hands of children after playing in playgrounds.  Environ Health Perspectives 112(14): 1375-1380)

In 2006, researchers in Florida reported that there were no detectable differences in exposure between children who played on playsets made from CCA-treated wood and those who played on playsets made from other materials.  These results support EPA’s conclusion that there is no concern about exposures to existing structures made from CCA-treated wood. 

(Shalat, S.L., H.M. Solo-Gabriele, L.E. Fleming, B.T. Buckley, K. Black, M. Jimenez, T. Shibata, M. Durbin, J. Graygo, W. Stephan, and G. Van De Bogart.  2006.  A pilot study of children's exposure to CCA-treated wood from playground equipment.  Science Total Environ 367(1):80-88)

In 2001, the US Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) was petitioned to require playsets made from CCA-treated wood be removed.  Based on extensive information and public comment from some of the nation’s leading scientific and medical experts, the CPSC concluded that “over a lifetime, arsenic exposures from food, especially certain food such as rice, other grains and meats; drinking water; and other sources could be much larger than exposures from playground equipment during childhood.”  The CPSC denied the petition in 2003.

In 2008, EPA completed an assessment of the potential risks to children who play on playsets or decks constructed from CCA-treated wood.  That assessment involved development of a highly complex mathematical model to describe behavior and included numerous, very conservative assumptions.  Despite the highly conservative nature and many assumptions, EPA concluded that there are no unreasonable risks associated with children playing on those structures.  On the basis of that assessment, EPA concluded:

EPA does not believe there is any reason to remove or replace CCA-treated structures, including decks or playground equipment. EPA is not recommending that existing structures or surrounding soils be removed or replaced. 

Washing children’s hands after they have played outdoors and prior to eating food should be considered as a standard hygienic practice, regardless of whether children played on playsets made from CCA-treated wood.

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