CCA Treated Timber In Playgrounds and Cubby Houses
Wooden playground equipment and wooden cubby houses look so natural and earthy, that it is a fair to assume they would be safe for our children to play on. Yet CCA Treated Timber In Playgrounds and Cubby Houses are still everywhere.
These structures have been made from pine treated with CCA, a toxic combination of chemicals used to increase the woods longevity and stop it decaying through fungus, insects and weather attacks.
CCA contains the well known carcinogen Arsenic. Arsenic poisoning is serious, it can cause hair loss, diarrhea, asthma, cancer and other skin problems. It can also be fatal, see the Arsenic Safety Data Sheet .
CCA – Chromated Copper Arsenate (H1 – H5) Dangers
This treatment is still commonly used, as it is believed by the wood industry to be superior to any other wood treatments.
You can generally spot newly treated wood, as the CCA gives it a green coloured tinge; e.g walk around your neighbourhood and check out a new pine fence. Unfortunately the newer arsenic-free wood treatments, also have a greenish tinge, so it can be confusing. See more on treated pine.
Why Treated Wood Is More Dangerous To Children
CCA treated wood is considered only a minimal risk to builders, so long as they follow the safety protocols and handle it properly.
Children however, are not builders and when they play on these wooden playgrounds, fingers go in mouths and little mouths even go onto the equipment itself!
Medical experts, especially pediatrician are rightly worried. James Roberts, M.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, says “Arsenic in children’s bodies is a long-term exposure and the outcomes are often cancer at a much later age.” Read the entire article at here.
It is important to realize that arsenic does not dissipate from the wood over time, 20 years later it is still there and the real worry is, it sticks to human skin, so eating after touching treated wood is a real problem.
Wooden Playground Equipment Built Before 2006 Contains Arsenic
In 2006, after a review of treated timber, the Australian Government recommended that treated wood should not be used for such constructions as decking’s, handrails and children’s play equipment.
While this was positive news, all the wooden equipment built before 2006 still stands in the playgrounds and children are still constantly being exposed. Also people still unknowingly buy treated wood and build their own cubby houses and outdoor furniture. See Banned The Pine In Garden Furniture.
How To Minimize Your Childs Exposure To Treated Wood
It is all but impossible to completely avoid treated wood products, as it is everywhere, from fences to telegraph poles, but we can and should minimize our families exposure, especially young children.
Here are some simple steps to take to minimize exposure to CCA;
- Painting fences and cubby houses is not yet proven to reduce contact exposure to arsenic, although some people believe oil based penetrating stains regularly applied may be of some benefit.
- If you have a cubby house and you don’t know whether or not it is treated wood, then take the time to contact the manufacturer. If it is treated pine, then you should look into either removing it, or finding away to cover it to minimize the children touching it.
- Avoid wooden playgrounds when you can.There are plenty of non-wooden parks around to choose from.
- Do not put food straight down onto wooden picnic benches.
- If your children have been playing on wooden equipment, make sure they wash there hands before they eat and it is also advisable to wash their clothes.
- When it comes to timber decking, it only tends to be cedar wood decks that are not CCA treated.
- iItreated wood has lost it green tinge that there is no arsenic left in the wood, as yes the green colour fades but, the arsenic is still very much present!
- Use other safer materials when doing home construction, e.g untreated hard wood, concrete blocks, bricks, stone and metal sheeting to make e.g cubby houses, picnic benches and vegetable gardens.
- Use naturally decay resistant wood, such as eastern or western red cedar, northern white cedar , walnut, osage orange, white oak, locust or redwood. PLEASE TRY TO MAKE SURE YOU ALSO PICK SUSTAINABLE FORESTED WOOD.
- If you buy inexpensive woods, such as pine, make sure it is raw and untreated and then you can use a natural product e.g linseed oil to extend the time it takes for the wood to decay. See TEC article Best Alternatives to CCA Treated Timber