FAQs: Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA)

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What is chromated copper arsenate (CCA) and where is it found?

Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) is a chemical wood preservative containing chromium, copper and arsenic, used to protect pressure-treated wood from insect and microbial induced rot. Prior to 2004, many residential outdoor structures such as playground sets, picnic tables, benches and decks were manufactured using CCA-treated wood. However, due to health concerns related to arsenic, a known carcinogen, the manufacture of CCA-treated products was phased-out for residential and consumer uses. Structures currently in use, built with CCA-treated wood prior to 2004, could potentially be a source of arsenic exposure to children. Follow the recommendations listed in the Eco-Healthy Child Care® Arsenic: treated wood and water Fact Sheet to avoid or reduce exposure.


How can children be exposed to arsenic in CCA?

Arsenic is colorless, tasteless and odorless. When the chemical enters the body via dermal contact or through ingestion or inhalation, it is readily absorbed and undetectable. Children are at risk of greater exposure than adults to toxic substances due to behaviors, such as hand-to-mouth; also they breathe more air and ingest more food and water than do adults. Additionally, studies indicate that children are likely to be more sensitive to arsenic exposure than adults. The health effects related to long term, repeated arsenic exposure include irritation of the stomach and intestines, birth or developmental effects, skin cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer, infertility and miscarriages in women.


How can I reduce exposure to arsenic in CCA?

Encourage children to immediately wash their hands with mild soap and water after playing on CCA-treated wood.

If replacing CCA-treated wooden structures with alternative materials, visit HERE.

Dispose of any CCA-treated wooden structures at a hazardous waste site. Visit Earth 911, enter your item and zip code and hazardous waste locations will be provided. 

If keeping your CCA-treated wooden structures, apply two coats of waterproof stain or sealant at least once a year. Stains and sealants are either water-based or oil-based. Oil-based sealant products may require less upkeep and less frequent re-coating than water-based finishes; however, water-based sealant products may contain fewer toxic solvents. Water based sealant should be applied twice a year, where-as oil based sealant can be applied once a year.  Wooden structures should not be treated with paint.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been studying the effectiveness of 12 water and oil-based sealants in preventing arsenic leaching.  Preliminary findings suggest serious concerns about using paints as coatings for exposed outdoor surfaces; chipping and weathering necessitate frequent sanding for re-coating. This creates dust with CCA-contaminated particles, posing an inhalation risk. For this reason, penetrating products, such as stains or sealants are recommended.

Based upon preliminary study results, EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission state that “regular application of an oil- or water-based penetrating coating (stains, sealants) to CCA-treated wood structures may reduce potential exposure to chemical residues.”

The Center for Environmental Health recommends treating with two coats of solid or semi-transparent oil-based outdoor deck stain at least once a year and advises that high traffic areas may require more frequent treatments.

Healthy Child Healthy World recommends sealing CCA-treated wood with a water-based sealant every six months.

Care must be used in the handling and maintenance of any CCA-treated wooden structures. For instance, burning CCA-treated wood will release arsenic into the air, and sanding or cutting CCA-treated wood will create toxic dust. Power washing or applying harsh cleaning products, such as bleach or acidic cleansers to CCA-treated wood can increase the rate at which arsenic leaches from the treated wood. To clean, use a mild soap and water solution and disposable cleaning supplies.

Cover picnic tables with a non-vinyl table-cloth; ensure food and drink are not in contact with CCA-treated wood.

Additional Resource(s) on chromate copper arsenate:

Center for Environmental Health’s FAQs on Arsenic in Play Structures