March 28, 2003

The Consumer Product Safety Commission's Briefing Package Prepared to Evaluate a Request to Ban Chromated Copper Arsenate in Playground Equipment

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Petition HP 01-3 Requesting Ban of Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA)-Treated Wood in Playground Equipment, 68 Fed. Reg. 7,510 (Feb. 14, 2003). 

Stated Purpose:

The CPSC solicits comments the CPCS staff ‘s briefing package on petition HP 01-03 requesting a ban on chromated copper arsenate (CCA)-treated wood in playground equipment.

Summary of RSP Comment:

The CPSC staff’s briefing package to aid the Commission in evaluating a petition from two environmental groups to ban CCA-treated wood estimates that children playing on CCA-treated playgrounds have an increased risk of 2 to 100 per million of developing lung or bladder cancer. While the staff does not recommend that the CPSC take action to ban CCA-treated wood in playgrounds, its risk estimates significantly overstate likely risk. For example, the CPSC staff selectively bases its estimates on studies which show arsenic at high levels to be carcinogenic, while rejecting all of the studies conducted in the United States which show no correlation between low to medium levels of arsenic and bladder and lung cancer. These rejected studies better represent the population of concern both in terms of lifestyles and exposures.

While nothing more than speculation is known about the benefits of banning CCA-treated wood in playground equipment, the costs of a ban would be high. Alternatives to CCA-treated wood are likely to have a negative impact on the environment. A ban would also cost American consumers millions of dollars in transitioning to alternative products. Perhaps the most important cost is that a ban on CCA-treated playground equipment would deprive children of needed places to play. It is possible that children would be at greater risk by not having CCA-treated playgrounds to play on because they could exercise less, or play in areas that are less safe. Before proceeding, the CPSC should weigh these opportunity costs against the hypothetical benefits of a CCA ban.

The CPSC should also be suspicious of seemingly altruistic behavior on the part of the companies that are currently registered to produce CCA. CPSC actions should protect consumers from hazards; not protect producers from competition.