TO: District Superintendents
Superintendents of Schools
New York City Board of Education
FROM: Carl T. Thurnau, P.E.
SUBJECT: Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) Playgrounds Prohibition
Governor Pataki has signed a law prohibiting the construction of new public playgrounds using chromated copper arsenate (CCA) treated lumber. This new rule (Section 37-0109 of the State Environmental Conservation Law) takes effect on March 15, 2003 and applies to all New York State public school districts, BOCES, and public authorities.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), CCA is a chemical mixture consisting of three pesticidal compounds - arsenic, chromium, and copper. CCA is intended to protect wood from dry rot, fungi, molds, termites, and other pests that may threaten the integrity of wood products. Published scientific studies suggest that arsenic, over time, may slowly leach from CCA-treated wood products. The amount and rate at which arsenic leaches, however, varies depending on numerous factors, such as local climate, acidity of rain and soil, age of the wood product, and how much CCA was applied. Chemicals may also be dislodged from the surface of the wood upon contact with the skin. The EPA has not concluded that CCA-treated wood poses an unreasonable risk to the public or the environment, however arsenic is a known human carcinogen and, thus, it is believed that reduction in the levels of potential exposure to arsenic is desirable. Additional information on CCA may be found at: www.epa.gov/pesticides/citizens/cca_qa.htm, www.epa.gov/pesticides/citizens/cca_transition.htm, and www.dec.state.ny.us/website/ppu/p2tiptw.html.
The following questions and answers address specific provisions of the new law.
Question: Who is covered by the rule?
Answer: The law covers all public schools, BOCES, and public authorities. Nonpublic schools are not covered under this law.
Question: Is the construction of CCA-treated public playgrounds prohibited under the law?
Answer: Yes. Effective March 15, 2003 no new CCA-treated public playgrounds may be constructed.
Question: Are existing CCA-treated public playgrounds also addressed in the law?
Answer: Yes. Owners of existing CCA-treated public playgrounds are directed to maintain and operate structures in a manner to minimize CCA from leaching from the structure. Apply a coating product to pressure-treated wood on a regular basis. According to the EPA, studies suggest that applying certain penetrating coatings (e.g., oil-based, semi-transparent stains) on a regular basis (e.g., once per year or every other year depending upon wear and weathering) may reduce the migration of wood preservative chemicals from CCA-treated wood. In selecting a finish, consumers should be aware that, in some cases, "film-forming" or nonpenetrating stains (latex semitransparent, latex opaque, and oil-based opaque stains) on outdoor surfaces such as decks and fences are not recommended, as subsequent peeling and flaking may ultimately have an impact on durability as well as exposure to the preservatives in the wood.
Question: Are surface areas underneath and adjacent to CCA-treated playgrounds covered by the law?
Answer: Yes. Ground cover surrounding CCA-treated playgrounds must be maintained in a manner to minimize exposure to potential CCA contamination. This includes ground cover such as pea gravel, wood chips, and rubber.
Question: What products may be used in place of CCA-treated lumber?
Answer: The EPA has registered a number of alternate wood preservatives. Wood treated with these preservatives is expected to be available in the marketplace shortly. In addition, untreated wood (e.g., cedar and redwood) and non-wood alternatives, such as plastics, metal, and composite materials are available.
Question: Should existing CCA-treated playgrounds be replaced?
Answer: The EPA does not recommend that consumers replace or remove existing structures made with CCA-treated wood or the soil surrounding those structures.
Question: What precautions are recommended by the EPA for users of existing CCA-treated playgrounds to minimize unnecessary exposure to CCA?
Answer: Always wash hands thoroughly after contact with any wood, especially prior to eating and drinking. Food should not come into direct contact with any CCA-treated wood.
Please feel free to contact the Office of Facilities Planning at www.emsc.nysed.gov/facplan/ or 518-474-3906 for assistance on CCA. Additional information on CCA may be found at: www.epa.gov/pesticides/citizens/cca_qa.htm and www.dec.state.ny.us/website/ppu/p2tiptw.pdf.