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Draft Report on Arsenic Treated Timber Released for Public Comment

Media Release APVMA 03/10 22 December 2003

The national regulator of pesticides and veterinary medicines, the APVMA, has recommended that popular arsenic timber treatment products not be used in the future for children's play equipment, picnic tables, decking and handrails.

APVMA Principal Scientist, Dr David Loschke, said that the recommendation is one of a number included in the draft report of the review of regulatory arrangements for the future use of arsenic based timber treatment products that is now available for public comment.

Provided certain conditions can be met other uses could continue.

'The review was undertaken because of public health concerns primarily about potential exposure of children to arsenic from close contact with treated timber surfaces. The APVMA was also concerned about the potential for environmental effects arising from the use of the timber treatment products,' Dr Loschke said.

According to Dr Loschke, the APVMA has insufficient information to conclude that it is safe to continue the use of arsenic treatments for timber in structures that children are likely to have frequent close contact with. It is therefore recommending that these uses no longer be permitted.

'Protecting public health is a major priority for the APVMA,' Dr Loschke said.

From an environmental perspective, leaching of arsenic from treated timber was found to be largely localised and so not considered to be a significant risk to the environment. However, environmental risks were identified in the timber treatment process. The draft report therefore recommends that copper chrome arsenate timber treatment products be declared Restricted Chemical Products. This means that such products would only be available for use by suitably trained personnel.

'While the review focused on public health and environmental issues, some questions relating to occupational health and safety risks were also considered,' Dr Loschke said.

Before the APVMA makes its final decision on arsenic timber treatment products it is seeking public comment on the draft review report. All comments need to be received by 29 February 2004.

Arsenic based timber treatment products are used for the control and prevention of damage to timber and timber structures by insects, wood rot, wood fungus and timber decay.

Details of the review and the proposed regulatory approach are contained in the draft report "The reconsideration of the registration of arsenic based timber treatment products (copper chrome arsenate (CCA) and arsenic trioxide) and their associated labels, December 2003" which is available on the APVMA website.