How to use and dispose of wood impregnated with arsenic or chrome

The use of chromated copper arsenate (CCA) solutions in the preservation of timber is no longer permitted.  The use of CCA and CCA-treated timber has been restricted under an amendment to Annex XVII to the REACH Regulation (552/2009) relating to the restrictions on the manufacture, placing on the market and use of certain dangerous substances, mixtures and articles, which repealed Government decree 787/2007 that had been in force since 15 August 2007. In practice the Regulation only applies to reclaimed timber. The restrictions have been imposed to prevent any health and environmental risks caused by arsenic.

 

CCA preservatives contain arsenic, chromium and copper. Arsenic pentoxide is toxic if inhaled or swallowed. It causes skin and eye irritation and, in frequent exposure, also respiratory irritation. Arsenic pentoxide is a proven human carcinogen. Chromium is present in impregnation solutions as hexavalent chromium which is toxic via inhalation and skin contact. It is also corrosive and sensitising by skin contact. Chromium trioxide is a proven human carcinogen if inhaled. Hexavalent chromium has been found to have adverse effects on fertility and foetal development in experimental animals. In impregnated wood hexavalent chromium largely transforms into trivalent chromium, which has less serious health effects. It is not a known carcinogen but it is harmful if inhaled and causes skin irritation.


Those using impregnated wood may become exposed to hazardous substances when handling and working on fresh impregnated wood in particular. Children may become exposed through skin contact or substances dissolved in the sand in play areas constructed using impregnated wood.


CCA-treated timber releases arsenic, chromium and copper into the ground and water during its use. These elements are highly toxic to many organisms when released into the environment. Instead of becoming decomposed they bioaccumulate in the environment and organisms.

 

Since 30 June 2004 the supply of timber containing arsenic to consumers and its use in households and residential areas has been forbidden. Such timber may not be used in playgrounds or play equipment or in structures that are in contact with food plants or animal feed either. However, timber treated with new chromium- and arsenic-free preservatives may be used in playgrounds and play equipment.

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