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Protecting playground users

Auckland City looks to ways to protect playground users from possible treated timber health risk

Auckland City Council is investigating painting its few remaining playground structures to protect children from possible health risks from timber treated with arsenic.

Auckland City’s parks manager, Jim Doidge, said today that older adventure-type playground structures made from treated timber remained in only 34 of the city’s 194 playgrounds. These are mainly used by older children, less at risk from health problems thought to be associated with copper chromium arsenic (CCA).

The city has been using plastic or powder-coated steel for any new playground equipment for several years. Hard wood – requiring no treatment – might now be used when wood was needed.

Mr Doidge said the city would now look into painting the remaining treated timber structures to offer protection against any possible health risk.

A report released today by the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) says the extent of any risks from CCA treated timber is still unclear, but says that the use of protective coatings on playground structures is available as a precautionary measure.

Mr Doidge said the city was now looking into this. It would also work with Local Government New Zealand in considering a national response to issues raised by the use of CCA. “In areas where the wood is unlikely to be touched by children – such as retaining walls and bridges, we will continue to use treated timber but will include treatments that will mitigate the risk”, Mr Doidge says.

Meanwhile, the Building Industry Authority (BIA) is considering the return to the use of treated timber in all buildings. This decision is a national one, not one for an individual city.

“The BIA will be releasing their proposal that all construction uses treated timber (H1 plus or H3 depending on where),” says Auckland City’s principal building officer, Mr Bob De Leur. “Currently the city does not require any specific timber treatment, only treated timber in some instances where it’s needed for building code compliance. In the future, Auckland City will not advocate one method of treatment over another. We will simply issue a consent based on our assessment of code compliance.”

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