Environmental Working Group calls for Immediate Recall of Arsenic-Treated Playsets and Reimbursement for Consumers

For Immediate Release: 
Monday, March 17, 2003

March 17, 2003

Environmental Working Group
Contact: EWG Public Affairs, 202-667-6982

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WASHINGTON- The Environmental Working Group today asked the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to ban the use of arsenic-treated wood in outdoor play structures and to order consumer refunds for millions of playsets nationwide, based on a new round of laboratory tests that found high levels of arsenic contamination even on older pressure-treated wooden structures.

EWG said the action was further justified by recent findings from government scientists that arsenic is a more potent cancer agent, and a higher risk for children, than previously believed. EWG presented testimony at a CPSC hearing today on a commission report issued in February. That report concluded that arsenic-treated wood in playsets poses a serious risk of cancer but did not recommend a ban or consumer refunds.

"Arsenic in existing play structures is a public health problem very similar in magnitude and certainty to lead paint. Both present significant health risks that last long after regulatory action banning their sale and use," said Jane Houlihan, EWG Vice President for Research in her testimony before the Commission.

"We recommend that CPSC immediately recall playsets on public playgrounds and require the treated wood industry to directly refund consumers who have purchased arsenic-treated wood playsets."

Previously, EWG reported that the equivalent of about one child in every grade school would be expected to develop cancer from playing on arsenic-treated wood playsets and decks.

Since the 1930s, arsenic-treated wood has been used to build decks, playsets and other outdoor, family-friendly structures. EWG has issued three reports detailing the heightened health risks faced by children who come into contact with these structures. Mounting evidence from various sources points to a growing awareness of this hazard.

In June 2001, EWG and the Healthy Building Network petitioned CPSC to ban arsenic-treated wood. CPSC staff studied this petition and presented their report to the three Commissioners. After the staff report, public testimony will be heard from registered participants, including EWG and almost a dozen industry representatives. The Commissioners will then decide whether to ban the structures.