September 13, 2004 – A team of University of Alberta researchers is recommending that children who play in playgrounds with chromated copper arsenate (CCA)-treated wood structures should wash their hands to reduce their exposure to arsenic.
The researchers found that children who had played in playgrounds constructed with CCA-treated wood had approximately five times more arsenic on their hands than children who had played in playgrounds that do not use CCA-treated wood. The research was conducted last year in Edmonton, Alberta, where 222 of 316 city-owned and operated playgrounds were totally or partially constructed with CCA-treated wood. This type of wood can usually be recognized by its greenish tint.
The researchers have published their work in a paper called Arsenic on the hands of children after playing in playgrounds, which appears in Environmental Health Perspectives.
The title of the paper and the statistics may seem arresting, but the authors don't mean to alarm parents. The amount of arsenic found on the hands of children who had played in the CCA-treated wood playgrounds is still less than the average daily intake of arsenic from food and water, said Dr. Chris Le, principal investigator of the research.
"I think it is important to realize that a small amount of arsenic is present in the soil in playgrounds, whether there is CCA-treated wood in use there or not. People should not be afraid of their children playing in playgrounds, but it is important to wash their hands after playing," said Le, a professor in the U of A Department of Public Health Sciences.
However, Le added, "The current science is not able to tell us what level of arsenic is hazardous to people. More research is needed to understand how different arsenic compounds cause adverse health effects and at what level of arsenic the effects should become a concern. We are currently pursuing this research."
According to a Health Canada release, the manufacturers of CCA informed Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency in April 2002 that they would voluntarily cancel their registrations for residential uses of CCA-treated wood, and, as of December 31, 2003, wood intended for uses such as playground equipment, decks, fences, walkways, and landscape timbers cannot be treated with CCA.
The U of A team conducted their research in collaboration and cooperation with the City of Edmonton, Capital Health, Environment Canada, and Alberta Health and Wellness.
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