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Copper Chrome Arsenate (CCA) - APVMA puts industry on notice

Ref: APVMA 03/6
Date: 28 July 2003

The Board of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has today put industry on notice that it intends to stop the use of Copper Chrome Arsenate (CCA) as a timber treatment in certain domestic situations such as decking and children's playground equipment by the end of 2003 unless there is conclusive proof that continued use is safe.

The Chairman of the APVMA Board, Dr Kevin Sheridan, said that while scientific opinion on whether CCA poses a significant hazard was divided, the Board considered that they should take a highly protective approach in this instance.

CCA is used to preserve wood in a variety of situations such as for telegraph poles, decking and fencing. It has also been used for children's playground equipment, although its use has declined in recent years in favour of metal and plastic structures, a move the APVMA welcomes.

Trace amounts of arsenic are commonly found in the environment, in foods and in drinking water. The World Health Organisation has set a tolerable daily intake for this natural element. There is concern however that certain uses of CCA treated timber may add an additional level of exposure to arsenic.

The APVMA announcement comes in advance of the outcomes of their detailed review of the scientific literature, which is currently underway The USA and the EU are also undertaking scientific reviews on CCA. To date, the US Environmental Protection agency has not concluded that there is unreasonable risk to the public from these products but is of the view that any reduction in exposure to arsenic is desirable. Nevertheless, in the USA these products are being phased out by the end of 2003 at the request of industry.

A review by New Zealand authorities had concluded that there was insufficient evidence at this stage to conclude that these products pose an unacceptable risk. However, New Zealand did support a move away from using CCA treated timber on children's playground equipment.

Suppliers of CCA products had called for its retention unless there was conclusive scientific evidence that CCA poses an unacceptable risk to the community. Dr Sheridan said the APVMA did not support this approach. He said it was up to the registrants to prove their products were safe. He encouraged suppliers to submit any further data they may have.

Dr David Loschke, the APVMA's Principal Agricultural Scientist said the APVMA Board would be provided with a comprehensive analysis on CCA late this year. However, he confirmed that the APVMA takes a protective approach to chemical safety and a number of other chemicals had been withdrawn in the past where the risks were considered unacceptable.

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