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Question & Answers - Arsenic & Chromium

Lately there has been a brewing controversy concerning the substances arsenic and chromium. These two substances are commonly found in wood preservatives. Wooden playground structures are commonly treated with wood preservative that contain these substances. It is a debated topic as to whether or not children are in danger by being subjected to these substances. Below are common questions asked.

What are Arsenic and Chromium?

Arsenic and Chromium are scientifically known as chromate copper arsenates (CCA), which are commonly found in wood preservatives. These wood preservatives protect wood from rotting, fungus, molds, termites and other pests.

Why are they considered dangerous?

Until recently, it was a common practice to use wood preservatives that contain CCA’s on wooden playground equipment. State and federal health officials have recently determined that these chemicals are dangerous and high levels of CCA’s can cause cancer. The EPA is currently researching what is considered safe levels of arsenics, and will determine what will be the continued use of CCA’s.

What is the danger to children using the playgrounds treated with Arsenic and Chromium?

Health officials have found that the maximum acceptable level of CCA’s in wood preservatives is .08 parts per million. This simply means that children would have to be exposed to very high levels of CCA’s to be at risk for cancer. The area of more concern is that CCA’s used in wood is easily leached out of the wood into the ground where arsenics are already commonly and naturally found. This is an area of concern that again the EPA is researching.

How can I tell if my playground equipment contains chromate copper arsenates?

A small sample of the wood and soil is gathered and given to a laboratory to determine the levels of CCA’s.

What should I do if my equipment has been found to contain chromium and arsenic?

Although research is still inconclusive, to be safe playground owners and operators should begin investigating replacement of the equipment. Purchasing metal playground equipment playground equipment will insure that there will be no CCA’s