Arsenic Lobbyists Coming Out of Woodwork

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, January 22, 2003

WASHINGTON — For decades, they made the world safe for skyrocketing sales of arsenic-soaked wood, and dangerous for the millions of Americans who were exposed to the material, and are still exposed today. But faced with overwhelming scientific evidence that resulted in a regulatory ban and prompted a flood of lawsuits, the American Wood Preservers Institute of Gainesville, FL, has closed its doors for good.

"We haven’t been this sad since the day the Tobacco Institute shut down," said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group.

"Rented scientists, craven disregard for people’s health, and strong-arm lobby tactics were the specialties of the American Wood Preservers Institute and its campaign to protect arsenic-treated wood from regulation. We say, good riddance," Cook added.

"Unfortunately, though they are out of business, their handiwork, and that of the chemical companies that bankrolled them, kept a defective product on the market that jeopardized the health of millions of Americans, and will threaten millions more in the years to come as long as pressure-treated decks and playset remain in use.”

The collapse of the AWPI comes in the wake of a successful effort by public interest groups to call document the health and environmental risks posed by arsenic-treated wood and to ban its production and use. Beyond Pesticides (the National Campaign Against The Misuse of Pesticides), Healthy Building Network, Generation Green, the Center for Environmental Health and Environmental Working Group were among the organizations that sought a full ban on arsenic-treated wood.

In February 2002, EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announced the wood industry’s “voluntary” phase-out of CCA-treated wood for residential use by Dec. 31, 2003.

However, EPA sidestepped the issue of existing arsenic-treated structures, saying that EPA did “not believe there is any reason to remove or replace arsenic–treated structures.” [Emphasis added.]

The Environmental Working Group researchers documented the health risks of arsenic-treated wood, particularly for children, and helped launch the largest-ever testing program for arsenic-treated lumber with University of North Carolina – Asheville’s Environmental Quality Institute.

Initial results from tests of 263 backyard decks and playsets showed that old pressure-treated wood has just as much arsenic on the surface as new wood. Families with arsenic-treated structures can be exposed to unsafe levels of arsenic for the life of the wood.

Read the EPA announcement on the “voluntary” phase-out of arsenic-treated wood.