Sign up to receive our biweekly email with insights and analysis on building materials and environmental health.
Greenbuild 2013 From A to Z (November 26, 2013)
What to do if you have arsenic wood at home
Of course the best way to protect yourself and your family from exposure to arsenic wood is to remove the arsenic (CCA) wood from use and dispose of it properly. For many people however, this is simply not economically viable. There are still a number of things you can do to reduce your family's exposure to arsenic wood:
- If you can't completely replace your deck or play-set with an arsenic free wood alternative, consider replacing "high-contact" areas like handrails on decks and play-sets, or the surface deck-boards themselves.
- Seal the remaining areas every six months with a penetrating deck treatment but avoid using "deck washing" products as some of them can convert the chemicals to more toxic compounds.
- Never sand arsenic treated wood. This spreads arsenic laden wood dust and increases exposure. If the wood surface has become rough and splinters are an issue, we strongly recommend replacing the structure with a less toxic alternative. Remember, splinters from arsenic wood can be very dangerous.
- Always make sure children wash their hands immediately after playing on an arsenic treated playset and never allow them to eat on a arsenic treated picnic table without a tablecloth.
- Do not allow your children to play in the soil or sand below or around arsenic treated wood structures. The arsenic leaches into the surrounding soil and contaminates the soil. Do not store toys underneath an arsenic treated structure.
If you are not sure whether the wood is arsenic treated or not, you can order a home testing kit and find out. [Please not: the Healthy Building Network no longer sell arsenic wood test kits through our website, but they are available at other online retailers.] Keep in mind that virtually all the non-cedar or redwood outdoor wood sold in the last 30 years was "pressure treated" with an arsenic containing compound.