Cca Treated Timber Is As Safe As Houses!
Cca Treated Timber Is As Safe As Houses!
But it contains arsenic? And so does the water we drink … our soil…. and the food we eat; such as fish, vegetables and fruit - in surprisingly large amounts. New Zealanders favour a diet which is naturally rich in arsenic.
Arsenic is a chemical which occurs naturally in our environment. It is the 20th most common element in our Earth’s crust.
Can I absorb arsenic from treated timber? This is very hard to do! The risk of your body absorbing arsenic from treated timber is negligible, because the arsenic is locked in the cell walls. It can only happen in one of four ways:
You could eat the timber or the shavings (some animals have tried this with no observed ill effects). You could burn treated timber and inhale the fumes, play in the ashes or even eat the ashes. Don’t burn treated timber! A very small amount of arsenic may leach off into the soil and you may then eat the soil or lick your skin which has been in contact with the soil, or transfer the soil to food you are eating. Wash your hands after being in contact with soil and certainly don’t eat it! A tiny amount may get on your skin if you touch or rub the timber. To get it into your body you would have to lick your skin or touch food you are eating. Wash your hands after touching treated timber!
How much arsenic could I absorb from contact with treated timber? Studies have shown that the group most at risk from eating soil and licking their hands (young children) would absorb 10 times less arsenic from treated timber than from their daily diet of drinking water. Adults would absorb 2700 times less arsenic from treated timber than from water.
In fact a child would have to eat 12 mouthfuls of soil a day from a playground site containing arsenic leached from the timber to equate with the amount of arsenic absorbed in the average daily diet of food and water (especially water because arsenic taken in this way is soluble).
And most of the arsenic in that soil would be naturally occurring anyway.
Similarly a child playing on treated timber who licked the timber and their hands would still only absorb one fifth of the daily intake of arsenic from food and water.
So over time is my body building up high levels of arsenic from normal living? No!
Even if you ingest arsenic very little stays in the body: 90% is removed by the kidneys.
Even with our arsenic rich diet in New Zealand, a water standard allowing more arsenic than the US and after 50 years of having the highest per capita usage of treated pine in the world, we have seen no increases in diseases related to arsenic. And our testing of arsenic in the urine shows no abnormal levels of arsenic in the population. There is no significant difference between adults and children, despite our suspicion that children are more at risk because of their soil eating, finger licking habits. But isn’t even a very small amount of arsenic harmful? Research indicates no ill-health effects linked to current levels of exposure to arsenic – even amongst people working daily with the product no ill health effects have been observed.
Isn’t arsenic carcinogenic? Yes, but only in large and regular doses in its soluble form (e.g. drinking water).
The incidence of cancers likely to be related to arsenic is more likely to occur due to more potent factors (e.g. sun exposure for skin cancer).
Where does exposure to arsenic rate compared with other public health risks?
It is extremely low.
There are many every day areas of risk that we hardly think about which warrant much greater attention because of substantially greater health contamination/disease spreading potential: Gymnasiums and schools – great places for viral/bacterial/fungal transfer. Faecal contamination on restaurant tables, money, door handles, shop counters and even shaking hands.
How can I minimise any risk of absorbing arsenic from treated timber?
Arsenic is easily removed from the skin with soap
and water. Wash your hands before licking them or handling
food. Do not eat soil. Do not burn treated timber. If you
do, do not breathe in the fumes, play in the ashes or eat
the ashes. Do not put food on a table made of treated pine.