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Researchers: Treated wood poses long-term threat

Arsenic from treated lumber used in decks, utility poles and fences will likely leach into the environment for decades to come, possibly threatening groundwater, according to two research papers published online Wednesday.

Researchers from the University of Miami, the University of Florida and Florida International University examined arsenic leaching from chromated copper arsenate, or CCA-treated wood, from a real deck as well as from simulated landfills.

Their conclusion: The deck wood leached high levels of arsenic into rainwater runoff and the soil -- and treated wood only continued leaching arsenic while sitting in simulated landfills.

The papers appeared in the online version of the journal Environmental Science & Technology, Research ASAP. The bulk of the funding for the research came from the Florida Center for Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, a statewide research center hosted by the UF College of Engineering.

"What's important for people to realize is that arsenic is relatively mobile, so it's something we have to be relatively concerned about ?how to manage this huge stock of CCA wood that remains to be disposed of," said Tim Townsend, a UF associate professor of environmental engineering.

Earlier studies on the arsenic leaching problem prompted the wood products industry to phase out CCA-products for residential use in 2003, but CCA-wood can still be used in utility poles and industrial timbers.

Helena Solo-Gabriele, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Miami, Townsend and their colleagues studied rainwater runoff from a CCA-treated deck for a year. Their conclusion: Arsenic contamination was 100 times higher than runoff from an untreated deck.

Not only that, but a layer of sand underneath the deck had arsenic levels 15 to 30 times higher than background levels, while water that percolated through the sand also was contaminated by the toxic metal.

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Source:University of Florida


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