March 3, 2003: What is the toxicity of Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) treated wood in Playground Equipment? (Part 2)

A statement from Chairman Hal Stratton
Public Briefing on CCA Pressure-Treated Wood Playground Equipment Scheduled

There are many risk factors that contributed to a person’s risk for developing cancer over their lifetime such as environment, genetics, diet, and behaviors such as smoking.  The staff maintains that an individual child’s risk from arsenic in CCA-treated playground equipment will vary depending on many factors.  Those include the amount of arsenic released from the CCA-treated wood, the amount of arsenic picked up on the hands, the number of days and years the child plays on the wood, and the amount of arsenic transferred to the mouth by hand-to-mouth activity.  The staff considered these types of exposures in calculating the increased lifetime risk of developing lung or bladder.

CPSC staff states this increased risk to children is primarily due to exposure to arsenic residue on children’s hands followed by hand-to-mouth contact.  The report says transfer of the arsenic from the hand to the mouth can occur during and after playing on pressure-treated wood playground equipment.

The minimize the risk of exposure to arsenic from CCA-treated playground equipment, the staff recommends that parents and caregivers thoroughly wash children’s hands with soap and water immediately after playing on CCA pressure-treated wood playground equipment.  In addition, the staff recommends that children not eat while on CCA-treated wood playground equipment.

Arsenic occurs naturally in the air, soil, water and in some foods.  While exposure to arsenic from background sources could be much higher than the exposure from playgrounds for some children, exposure to arsenic from CCA-treated playgrounds could be a significant source of arsenic for other children on those days that include a playground visit.

Several playground companies have already begun to use wood treated with arsenic-free preservatives.  In addition, playground structures can be made of other materials that don’t contain arsenic, such as naturally rot-resistant wood (redwood and cedar), metal, plastic, and composite materials.  All of these materials could be used for new construction.

Consumers may obtain a fact sheet on the findings of the Commission staff at the CPSC web site at or by calling the CPSC hotline at 800-638-CPSC (2772).

As always, if there are any questions, call the MTPC.

I am interested in any questions that you would like answered in “Question of the Week.”  Please e-mail me with any suggestions at

Donna Seger, M.D.
Medical Director, Middle Tennessee Poison Center