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Toxic timber must be banned

Toxic timber must be banned

The Government should stop procrastinating and ban toxic CCA-treated timber in all public places - especially children's playgrounds and parks, Green MP Sue Kedgley said today.

"Instead of dithering, pandering to industry and calling for yet more studies, New Zealand should follow the lead of the European Union, United States and Canada, and ban this toxic timber in residential and recreational settings," Ms Kedgley said.

Ms Kedgley is commenting on the release today of a partial review of toxic Copper Chromium Arsenic (CCA) timber by public health specialist Dr Deborah Read. The review concludes that it is not known whether CCA timber is safe; and that CCA is toxic, and arsenic a known carcinogen.

"The response of the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) to the review, which it commissioned, is unacceptably weak - proposing intermediate steps, but not a ban," Ms Kedgley said.

"This is vintage ERMA - stalling for time, hiding behind 'independent experts' and seeking further studies, instead of taking decisive action," Ms Kedgley said.

"Given the uncertainty and risks surrounding CCA-treated timber, New Zealand should take a precautionary approach and ban it in all at-risk play equipment in schools, early childhood centres, and public parks. We should also move to alternative timbers for household decks, garden furniture, picnic tables, retaining walls and other domestic structures," Ms Kedgley said.

"All other uses where CCA timber comes into regular human contact should also be reviewed. Alternative, safe, timber treatments are available and cost-effective, including ACQ timber, Ms Kedgley said.

"Dr Read notes in her report that the lifetime lung and bladder cancer risks for children exposed to the toxic timber could be as high as one case in 1000. ERMA's call for yet further studies and reviews is totally unsatisfactory, because children crawling around on CCA playgrounds and decks - putting their fingers in their mouths after touching the wood - are at risk now," Ms Kedgley said.

"The parallels with the tobacco industry are alarming, with deliberate misinformation and Government inaction. We cannot continue to whitewash this issue, as our children's health is at risk this time," Ms Kedgley said.

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