Toxic timber review ignores environment

Published: Tue 17 Dec 2002 04:27 PM
Toxic timber review ignores environment
Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons said she was concerned the ERMA review of CCA treated timber confirmed today does not include an assessment of the environmental impacts of the toxic timber.
The timber posed significant risks, not just to human health, but also to the environment, Ms Fitzsimons said. "And the fact is, these environmental risks end up being risks to human health," Ms Fitzsimons said. "We simply do not know, until we have a done full review, the extent to which arsenic and chromium have entered the food chain."
Ms Fitzsimons pointed out that ERMA was the Environmental Risk Management Authority.
Ms Fitzsimons said the review's focus on a single report by United States scientist Dr Rick Maas suggested the intent of the review was simply to discredit his research, rather than taking a wider view of "what everyone must acknowledge is a very toxic substance".
Dr Maas' research revealed significant carcinogenic and other health risks of the timber, particularly to young children.
Ms Fitzsimons said it was essential that ERMA's review include all environmental impacts of CCA timber if it was to be credible.
"It has been known for many years that CCA timber contaminates soil and water runoff at treatment sites, where the chemical is applied to the timber in pressure vessels and left to drip dry. These contaminated sites are a shocking legacy for future generations," Ms Fitzsimons said.
"Recent research has shown that CCA timber also leaches poisons into the soil and stormwater when it is stacked outside in the rain, in storage areas and awaiting sale outside timber outlets. This occurs even when the timber has been properly dried after treatment. The leached arsenic and chromium ends up in streams, beaches and estuaries - and is potentially taken up by fish, seafood and other organisms," Ms Fitzsimons said.
"There is also the question of disposing of unwanted treated timber. Offcuts from construction are sometimes burned in domestic fires, leading to arsenic in the air and in the ash, which is often put on gardens. Old fence posts and CCA-treated timber from demolitions are also an environmental hazard if they are burned, and we do not know the level of arsenic and chromium in farm soils which have had treated fenceposts for many years."

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