EPA poised to send known carcinogen back to the public

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, January 4, 2007

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 — On January 19, EPA will decide whether or not to allow unrestricted use of the potent human carcinogen chromium-6 in a wood preservative known as ACC (acid copper chromate), for lumber sold at the nation's hardware and home improvement stores.

The decision comes after intense lobbying by the chromium industry, and appears timed to avoid the results of a major cancer study on the chemical expected later this year from the National Toxicology Program (NTP). The NTP study will provide critical information on cancer risks to children who play on play sets decks and other structures made with ACC treated wood.

Four years ago EPA banned nearly all uses of the widely used arsenic and chromium-based wood preservative chromated copper arsenate (CCA), a chemical similar to ACC. Now it appears that EPA will send the known human carcinogen chromium-6 back to the public where millions of children, homeowners, and contractors will be exposed to the compound on decks, play sets, and countless other home improvement projects. In 2006, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) increased health protections for chromium-6 by a factor of ten because of the chemical's potency as a carcinogen.

"Everything known about chromium-6 tells us that it is a highly toxic cancer causing compound", said Richard Wiles, Executive Director of the Environmental Working Group. "But EPA appears ready to ignore the science and rush this carcinogen to market before the cancer risks to children are fully understood. Putting this carcinogen back into the nation's lumber supply would be a giant step backwards in public health protection," Wiles added.

Twenty years ago the EPA made the wrong decision with arsenic treated lumber, allowing the compound to stay on the market, exposing an entire generation of children to unsafe levels of cancer causing arsenic. Today, millions of schools, parks, and backyards across America have decks, picnic tables, and play-structures made with this carcinogen-laden wood.

Environmental Working Group today sent a letter to Mr. Jim Jones [Read Letter], Director of the EPA's pesticide program, urging the agency not to register ACC until the cancer risks to children who would be exposed to chromium-6 from treated wood, are fully understood.

Related Documents: EWG Letter to EPA
Lobbying Registration Documents of Former Senator Bob Dole [PDF]

Related EWG Investigation: Chrome-Plated Fraud: How PG&E's Scientists-For-Hire Reversed Findings of Cancer Study