Current as of August 2007
In December 2003, EPA announced the results of its preliminary assessment of potential health risks, as well as ecological effects and environmental risks, associated with creosote. The assessment includes an evaluation of the potential risks to handlers and post-application workers from exposure to creosote. Creosote is a possible human carcinogen and has no registered residential uses. It is primarily used on utility poles and railroad ties. It is important to note that since this draft risk assessment is in the public review and comment phase, its findings are preliminary in nature and are subject to additional analysis. It is, therefore, premature for EPA to reach conclusions about the potential for creosote-treated wood products to contribute to cancer risk in workers and handlers of this wood. The full preliminary assessment is available for public inspection in EPA's Docket (# OPP-2003-0248). The Federal Register Notice can be found at www.epa.gov/fedrgstr.
Questions & Answers
- What is EPA releasing today?
- What is creosote and how is it used?
- Are there any health risks associated with exposure to creosote-treated wood?
- What safety precautions should one take when handling or coming into contact with creosote?
- What about the non-pressure treatment (i.e., brush-on) uses of creosote?
- Are railroad ties safe for me to use for landscaping around my home?
- How does one dispose of creosote-treated wood?
- Are there alternatives in industrial settings for creosote?
- What is the reregistration process for creosote?
- What has been the role of Canada's Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) in the development of the preliminary risk assessment for creosote?
- Where can I get further information?
As part of the six-phase public participation process, EPA released the preliminary risk assessment for creosote, which consisted of a description of creosote and its regulatory history, as well as preliminary human health and ecological risk estimates associated with its use. The chapters are included in EPA's Docket # OPP-2003-0248.
2. What is creosote and how is it used?
Creosote is a wood preservative used for commercial purposes only; it has no registered residential uses. Creosote is obtained from high temperature distillation of coal tar (itself a mixture of hundreds of organic substances). Over 100 components in creosote have been identified. It is used as a fungicide, insecticide, miticide, and sporicide to protect wood and is applied by pressure methods to wood products, primarily utility poles and railroad ties. This treated wood is intended for exterior/outdoor uses only. Its commercial uses include railroad ties (70%), utility poles (15-20%), and other miscellaneous commercial uses (10-15%).
3. Are there any health risks associated with exposure to creosote-treated wood?
The risk estimates provided in this risk assessment are of a preliminary nature and subject to refinement. The process that EPA uses to review chemicals through reregistration is intended to gather additional information and input from the public and stakeholders about exposure and risk that will be used to revise the risk estimates. Based on such input through this public comment period, EPA will develop a revised risk assessment and will be able to determine whether or not risk mitigation measures are needed.
4. What safety precautions should one take when handling or coming into contact with creosote?
Creosote penetrates deeply into and remains in the pressure-treated wood for a long time. Exposure to creosote may present certain hazards. Therefore, the following precautions should be taken both when handling the treated wood and in determining where to use the treated wood. It should be noted that such exposure usually only occurs when one comes into contact with railroad ties and/or utility poles.
USE SITE PRECAUTIONS
Do not use where frequent or prolonged contact with bare skin can occur.
Do not use in residential settings. In interiors of industrial buildings, it should be used only for industrial building components which are in ground contact and subject to decay or insect infestation and for wood block flooring in industrial settings.
Do not use in the interiors of farm buildings where there may be direct contact with domestic animals or livestock which may bite or lick the wood.
Do not use treated wood for cutting-boards or counter tops.
Do not use where it may come into direct or indirect contact with public drinking water.
Dispose of treated wood by ordinary trash collection or burial.
Do not burn wood in open fires or in stoves, fireplaces, or residential boilers because toxic chemicals may be produced as part of the smoke and ashes.
Avoid frequent or prolonged inhalation of sawdust from treated wood.
Avoid frequent or prolonged skin contact with creosote-treated wood.
When handling the wood, wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants and use gloves impervious to the chemicals.
When power-sawing and machining, wear goggles to protect eyes from flying particles.
Wash work clothes separately from other household clothing.
5.What about the non-pressure treatment (i.e., brush-on) uses of creosote?
The five registrants who comprise the Creosote Council III have voluntarily requested cancellation of all non-pressure treatment uses of creosote. EPA, in accordance with section 6(f)(1) of FIFRA, as amended, issued a Notice of Receipt of these requests on September 29, 2003. The registrants of the affected creosote products have not requested an existing stocks provision, and waived any comment period beyond the standard 30-day comment period. EPA reopened the comment period for 30 days, based on a registrant request. After the comment period closed, final cancellation orders were issued on these requests.
6. Are railroad ties safe for me to use for landscaping around my home?
There are no approved uses of creosote to treat wood for residential use. The Agency is aware that creosote-treated railroad ties are being used in the residential setting for landscape purposes and, in some instances, as a border around gardens. Such uses in residential settings are not intended uses of creosote and have not been considered in the preliminary risk assessment. If you do have creosote-treated wood in your yard, you are reminded to consult the handling precautions outlined above in this document.
7. How does one dispose of creosote-treated wood?
Homeowners should not encounter creosote-treated wood in the residential environment. If they do, it can be disposed of by ordinary trash collection (i.e., as municipal solid waste). Do not compost or mulch sawdust or remnants from creosote-treated wood. See EPA's household hazardous waste Web page for further guidance on disposal of municipal solid waste.
8. Are there alternatives in industrial settings for creosote?
Both CCA (Chromated Copper Arsenate) and pentachlorophenol (penta) are used as wood preservatives in utility poles. There are non-wood alternatives including steel and cement poles, as well as plastic and cement railroad ties.
9. What is the reregistration process for creosote?
Creosote is being reviewed in EPA's six-phase public participation review process and is scheduled for September 30, 2008. The Agency process includes public comment periods, a technical briefing, and conference calls with stakeholders on mitigation measures. Once the Office of Pesticide Programs completes the reregistration review for creosote, a reregistration eligibility decision document will be released that describes EPA's final risk estimates and whether or not any changes are needed to maintain remaining registrations of creosote products.
10. What has been the role of Canada's Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) in the development of the preliminary risk assessment for creosote?
The preliminary risk assessment is a cooperative re-evaluation between the US EPA and Health Canada's PMRA under NAFTA. Both countries have contributed to the study review and peer review process. Exposure data used in the preliminary risk assessment were collected from both US and Canadian wood-treatment facilities and both countries are participating in the public comment process. As the assessments are finalized, EPA will continue to work closely with Canada since the goal of these efforts is to develop science and regulatory conclusions amenable to both agencies. You can visit the PMRA website at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/pmra-arla.
11. Where can I get further information?
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.