Jump to main content.

Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA):
EPA Testimony on Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) Treated Wood

CCA Table of Contents

Testimony of Jack E. Housenger, Associate Director, Antimicrobials Division
Office of Pesticide Programs
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Before the Consumer Product Safety Commission
Hearing on Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) Treated Wood
March 17, 2003


First of all, I want to thank Chairman Hal Stratton for inviting EPA to provide comments today at the Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) hearing on chromated copper arsenate (CCA) treated wood. We have invested a lot of effort into the scientific review of CCA and we have worked cooperatively with the Commission on this effort. We appreciate your continued commitment to work with the Agency on this important issue.

My comments today will focus on three areas: first, I will provide the regulatory context of EPA's pesticide program and how it relates to CCA; second, I will discuss the phase-out of CCA in residential settings; and third, I will provide you with the status of our ongoing work at the Agency and in cooperation with the Commission.

Regulatory Context

EPA regulates the sale, distribution and use of all pesticides in the United States, including those chemicals that are used in agricultural crop production, those that are used around the home to control unwanted pests, repellents that protect us from biting insects, and antimicrobial products that are used to control the growth of microorganisms in our environment. Specifically, the Antimicrobials Division within EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs is responsible for the registration and reregistration activities of all antimicrobial pesticides, including those products that are used as wood preservatives. CCA falls into this category of antimicrobial pesticides because it is used as a wood preservative to control wood-destroying microorganisms. EPA's legal authority to regulate pesticides is provided by two statutes: the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), both of which were amended by the Food Quality Protection Act of 1996. It is under the first statute, FIFRA, that we are given the authority to regulate wood preservatives like CCA. The primary enforcement tool used to regulate pesticide sale, distribution and use is the EPA-approved label. Labels are legally required to accompany every pesticide product sold or distributed in the United States and instruct the user about such things as where a pesticide product may be used, how to safely apply the product, how much product should be used, as well as warnings and safety precautions to protect health and the environment. In other words, the label is the law.

While FIFRA regulates the sale, distribution and use of the pesticide CCA, qualifying wood treated with CCA is exempt from regulation under FIFRA (40CFR152.25(a)). However, the potential risks of exposure from using treated wood is considered in our risk evaluation for the pesticide. The Agency's regulatory approach focuses on ensuring the pesticide can be used safely and that there will be no adverse effects to people or the environment provided the pesticide was used according to label directions.

CCA, which was first registered in the 1940s, is being extensively reviewed by the Agency under a rigorous program to evaluate all older pesticides that were registered for use prior to November 1984. This program, called reregistration, ensures that the older pesticides meet today's higher scientific and regulatory standards for protecting human health and the environment. Because the information and science about pesticides, and therefore our understanding of the potential risks posed by pesticides, is constantly evolving, this program is critical to ensure the decisions made to protect human health and the environment are based on today's more stringent standards and modern scientific assessment methodologies. The reregistration process includes a multi-phase, public participation process where risk assessment documents are shared in a open and transparent manner to afford opportunities for meaningful input from all interested stakeholders.

EPA's Regulatory Decision on CCA

EPA is reviewing CCA under two different tracks which will result in the most rigorous risk assessment ever done on a wood preservative pesticide. One risk assessment is specifically considering children's exposure at residential sites, playground settings and public parks. The completion of this investigation of potential risks to children from exposure to CCA-treated wood is a priority for the Agency. The other risk assessment, being conducted under the Agency's reregistration program, focuses on the uses that are not subject to the phase-out agreement. We expect this risk assessment to be available for public comment this Spring.

EPA believes that all regulatory decisions on pesticides must be supported by the strongest scientific methods and the most scientifically sound information available to ensure we have a high level of confidence in those decisions. To that end, we have involved a number of offices at the Agency to help with the review of CCA as well as soliciting peer review from an independent FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP) to guarantee our risk assessment techniques are grounded in sound science. The SAP met in October 2001 and recommended that the Agency conduct a probabilistic risk assessment on CCA which provides for a much more robust analysis than does a deterministic risk assessment. Probabilistic assessments have significantly strengthened the scientific credibility of our regulatory decisions. We believe that the probabilistic assessment that we are conducting will significantly reduce uncertainties associated with our risk estimates. In addition, the SAP recommended that we seek better quality data on potential children's exposure to CCA in residential and playground settings. We have been taking steps to implement their recommendations about our risk assessment and, in 2001, the Agency began discussions with the Commission about ways to enhance the data upon which our exposure assessment would be based. The Agency is also implementing the SAP recommendations on exposure data which I will discuss a little later.

Transition to New Generation of Wood Treatment Products

In early 2002, the CCA manufacturers, or registrants as we call them, approached EPA about their individual decisions to voluntarily phase-out virtually all CCA residential uses, including CCA intended for use in treating wood destined for decks, picnic tables, landscaping timbers, gazebos, residential fencing, patios, walkways and play structures. EPA accepted the registrants' actions to phase out the residential uses of CCA which means that CCA will not be used on residential type wood after December 30, 2003. The Agency applauded the registrants' actions which will ensure that future exposures to arsenic are minimized in residential settings. Further, the voluntary actions will substantially reduce the time it otherwise could have taken for the review of CCA to go through the traditional regulatory process. In fact, many wood treatment facilities are already well along with their transitions to products other than those containing CCA for wood treatment purposes.

According to the regulations governing pesticide registration, the Agency is required to issue a final cancellation order to formally remove from CCA pesticide labels those residential uses being voluntarily terminated. [This cancellation order was signed today and is expected to be announced in the Federal Register shortly.] The final cancellation order makes it illegal to use CCA product bearing the new restrictive labels to treat wood intended for most residential uses included in the registrants' requests after December 30, 2003. Wood products that have been legally treated with CCA will be allowed to move through channels of trade, but we believe that will occur for a relatively short period of time.

Status of Ongoing Review of CCA

Even though the Agency reached an agreement with industry to phase out the uses of CCA for treating wood used in residential settings, we are continuing the children's risk assessment process as well as our review of those remaining uses that are not part of the voluntary cancellation/use termination. It is important to note also that EPA has not concluded that CCA-treated wood poses unreasonable risks to the public for existing structures made with CCA-treated wood. We are continuing to evaluate potential risks from structures already in place and will continue to evaluate those remaining uses that are not included in the voluntary actions.

We are moving forward with our probabilistic assessment of potential cancer risks to children from exposure to CCA in residential settings and we are enhancing the information upon which we will base our decision about such risks. In particular, three studies are currently underway that will greatly benefit our understanding of the levels of exposure that may be possible from treated wood. The first study, a "surface residue bioavailability study," will examine the surface residues of arsenic on wood and estimate how much of that residue can be absorbed by the body from the wood surface. We expect final results from this study by the end of April. The second study is a "soil residue bioavailability study," which will estimate the potential arsenic dose absorbed from soil contact and incidental ingestion through the mouth by children. Those results are expected this month. The third study of importance is a "hand wipe study" which will estimate the potential exposure to arsenic when the hand comes in contact with treated wood and correlates this physical activity with potential exposure to arsenic. Results from an interim pilot of this study have been received, but the complete study results are not expected until late May. These data will be fully evaluated in developing a draft children's risk assessment which we intend to take to our SAP for comment in December. We expect to release the draft children's risk assessment publicly several weeks prior to the SAP meeting. We intend to fully consider any recommendations made by the SAP in finalizing the risk assessment. An additional study that we are collaborating on with the Commission and our Office of Research and Development (ORD) is to develop data on the effectiveness of sealants in preventing exposure to residues of CCA on treated wood.

EPA expects to evaluate those uses that are not part of the voluntary cancellation through the standard 6-phase public participation process established for pesticide reregistration. This public process ensures active stakeholder participation throughout and the Agency intends to include the Commission in our evaluation process.

The Agency highly values its collaboration with the Commission on the assessment of CCA. As I mentioned earlier, we began collaborating with the Commission in 2001 and have maintained an open and constructive dialogue regarding the review of CCA since that time. The Commission has provided valuable assistance in reviewing the study design protocols that will generate new exposure information expected within the next several months. We were offered an opportunity to peer review the risk assessment prepared by the Commission and will consider it along with all the other information we have on CCA as we move forward in completing our risk assessment. We fully intend to consult with the Commission on our CCA risk assessments, including peer review prior to presenting the children's risk assessment to our SAP.

Again, on behalf of EPA, I appreciate this opportunity to speak before you about our review process for CCA. Given the Agency's rigorous scientific and regulatory process, as well as the actions to phase out CCA for virtually all residential uses, we look forward to assisting the Commission in any continuing work on CCA treated wood. I will be pleased to answer any questions on EPA activities.

Thank you again for inviting me here today.

Publications | Glossary | A-Z Index | Jobs

Local Navigation

Jump to main content.