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New mandatory timber chemicals toxic, says EU

Wednesday, 16 March 2011 MEDIA STATEMENT
New mandatory timber chemicals toxic, says EU

Labour’s Building and Construction spokesperson Phil Twyford is questioning whether the Government has properly considered possible health risks associated with its new mandatory timber treatment rules.

The Government has just announced that boron, recently banned as carcinogenic and toxic to human reproduction by the European Union, is the new standard treatment for timber used in the framing of New Zealand houses.

Phil Twyford said the EU’s chemicals agency ECHA in June last year declared that products containing Boric Acid must be labelled as ‘toxic to reproduction’ and carry the ‘skull and crossbones symbol’, and described boric acid as ‘a substance of very high concern because of its carcinogenic, mutagenic and toxic to reproduction properties’. Research on mice, rats, rabbits and beagles has shown that exposure to boric acid may impair fertility.

The US Environmental Protection Agency requires all products containing boric acid to be labelled ‘environmental hazard’ and requires the use of personal protective equipment consisting of at least long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes, socks and chemical resistant gloves, Phil Twyford said.

“My concern is for the health of tens of thousands of Kiwis who work in the building trade, and many more DIY-ers, who handle timber treated with boron.
Boron timber treatment has been around in New Zealand for many years, but now it’s been made compulsory and the EU has labelled it toxic to people, the onus is on National to move swiftly to protect Kiwis from the dangers of its use.

“Research indicates inhaling or ingesting boric acid is the most dangerous form of exposure. If people are cutting up treated timber there could be a risk of inhaling dust that is impregnated with it, or a very real danger that uninformed members of the general public could burn boric treated timber in fires or barbeques.

“I understand that officials from the Department of Building and Housing knew about the EU treatment of boron as toxic but their lengthy discussion document and the Minister’s statement do not say a thing about the possible health risks.

“Is the Government deliberately covering up the toxic dangers of their new compulsory timber treatment or does it just not care about the health and safety of New Zealanders using the timber? Or is it just that Europeans and Americans are somehow worth protecting, whereas Kiwis aren’t, according to National?”

ENDS

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