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CCA treated wood

  • Subject: [cg] CCA treated wood
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2003 20:22:27 -0800 (PST)

Hi Jack and everyone,

While I have great respect for your work in Hartford,
Jack, and for the leadership and support you give
ACGA, I'm afraid I have to disagree with your
conclusions about treated lumber and 'bogus science'.

I think community gardens should avoid CCA lumber for
3 reasons - it may open gardens to lawsuits; there are
better garden structure materials available, often for
lower cost (aka free); and since there is a scientific
debate going on about the product's safety, with no
clear consensus, it only makes sense to err on the
side of caution when it comes to nutrition and child

In support of my first point, check out this website
for personal injury lawyers,
Gardens with CCA wood in reach of children, or where
food is cleaned, harvested, sold or displayed, may be
open to lawsuits not just from people who think
they've been hurt, but from opponents of community
gardens as well. Even if all you say is correct, Jack,
this risk seems real and avoidable to me.

Second, what is CCA good for? Raised beds? "Regular"
raised beds work best without any structure around
them, actually. Those vast fields of veggies in
California have no 'box' around them, simply a raised
mound of soil. If you want to raise beds for access,
cinderblock designs seem the best bet. If you want to
'outline' beds or make terraces, I like David Hawkins
idea of using rubble (at the Edible Schoolyard). For
playground equipment, there are now other choices.
Certainly, gardens need to include parents in the
decision when they build. Same goes for decks and the
like. I personally find lots of cheap stone and free
tree trimmings to make stuff out of here in Charlotte,
supplemented by metal (rebar is great stuff).

Finally, there is no debate that arsenic and chromium
are highly toxic heavy metals, and that copper causes
havoc with marine organisms. The scientific debate
about the risks of CCA wood is continuing, and, as you
suggest, we need to be careful when reading studies
created to support one side or the other instead of
provide solid information. David Stillwell of
Connecticut's Ag. Experiment Station (you might call
him?) did a very helpful study that I believe offers a
fair and balanced 'snapshot' of the potential risks
Stillwell's suggestions are worth following:

* Coat CCA wood with paints or stains formulated for
such use, and recoat as required.
* Keep children and pets out of under-deck areas. 

* Follow safe handling and disposal guidelines when
using CCA-wood in building. 

* Consider use of alternative products on areas that
may be contacted by children. 

Certainly, when our kids are involved, there is no
sense in exposing them to potential risk - with no
clear benefits - when alternatives are available.

Jack, you say >I have even less love for
seeing my friends stampeded by this kind of stuff. 
The real big battle 
the health of our children is in our gardens and our
schools and our 
halls and in Washington and in our own homes.  We need
to be vigilant 
careful, but we also need to maintain a sense of
balance.  From what I 
lately, for example, the impact of the Bush "No Child
Left Behind" plan 
the stability of local schools may well far surpass
the impact of all 
pressure treated playgrounds on the continent.<

You seem to be saying three things, one which I don't
believe you intend. You know, especially those of us
with backgrounds in agriculture and the sciences may
not think of hours of reading research papers and
considering the evidence (not to mention surviving
organic and biochem) as 'being stampeded'. I am
certain you did not mean that as a slight, but I would
encourage you to cultivate a somewhat greater degree
of trust in the ability of your friends to think for

Certainly, we shouldn't get bogged down on a single
issue, and ignore Bush's 'education' program and the
rush to war. Absolutely not. However, with CCA, it
doesn't need to be a big deal. If you have it, paint
it. If you don't, avoid it if you can. Now, let's get
the garden planted and the peace rally organized. OK?

There is one last thing, though, and it touches the
'culture' of community garden organizing. You write,
forgive me for characterizing you and correct me if
I'm full of pre-compost, as an 'organizer'. For many
of us, we see things as 'gardeners'. That's why, for
instance, in the new FTRU organizing manual, there is
absolutely nothing about the technical side of
gardening or ecology. For you, I think, such issues as
CCA or organics or sustainability are interesting but
peripheral to 'bigger issues'. For me, although
I share your passion for justice and equality in a
world that can be very tough, ecology is indivisible
from justice. The point is not that either perspective
is 'right', but that we need each other to make
community gardens, and community building, as
effective as possible.

Thanks, btw, for speaking up on an issue when you knew
you'd catch flack for doing so.

Don Boekelheide
Charlotte NC

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