RE: CCA treated wood
- Subject: RE: [cg] CCA treated wood
- From: "Jack Hale" firstname.lastname@example.org
- Date: Tue, 11 Feb 2003 10:30:15 -0500
- Importance: Normal
I happen to agree with you. We haven't used pressure treated lumber at all
during the 23 years I have been working with community gardens in Hartford.
I just think people should avoid getting heated up about this "new" finding
one way or another. We have always known that arsenic is bad news. For
that matter, so is chrome (see Erin Brockavich), one of the "C's" in CCA. I
figure we should avoid things that will hurt us and as responsible folks,
parents and garden leaders, we should make sure we are not putting others in
harm's way, particularly when we have an available alternative. I
particularly enjoy the work people have done to come up with alternate
raised bed materials. On the other hand, we need to pay attention to what
sometimes passes for math and science so we can keep such announcements in
perspective. There is no question that arsenic is toxic, and that we should
avoid putting people in contact with it. Nonetheless, I suspect far more
damage is done to our children and friends by Coca Cola and French fries
than will ever be done by treated wood.
Personally, I'd like to see more work done on the long-term impact of
pressure treated lumber. I know that there is often a water soluble residue
of CCA on the outside of new lumber, and a manufacturer I talked to once
allowed that it wouldn't be a bad idea to wash it with soap and water before
letting people come in contact with it. I'd like to know whether the
chemicals continue to leach (the manufacturers say it doesn't), or whether
the risk of exposure goes down with age. There are tons of this stuff in
the environment now. If it continues to be dangerous over an extended
period, perhaps we should be working to get it all up and disposed of in a
relatively safe manner. The guaranteed lifespan of this stuff is 40 years,
and that's only because it hasn't been around long enough to know how much
longer than that it can be expected to last. The encapsulation idea is
interesting as a hypothetical, particularly around playgrounds, although
there is apparently no technology currently available/effective. That
probably isn't going to be useful in ground contact situations, the ones
gardeners tend to care about, but it would be good to know what we should be
doing. Unfortunately, the Consumer Product Safety Commission isn't going to
take that on - that issue would go back to the EPA.
In the meantime, I'm going to get a look at the actual CPSC reports. They
released hundreds of pages of material the other day. Might just be some
good stuff there.
[mailto:email@example.com]On Behalf Of Don Boekelheide
Sent: Monday, February 10, 2003 11:22 PM
Subject: [cg] CCA treated wood
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.
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