CCS world first in analysis of CCA

by Keith Loveridge

The Croydon Conservation Society initiated the campaign to rid Australia of CCA treated timber in February 2002. On behalf of the Society I asked the EPA what the situation was with CCA treated timber in Australia, as the U.S. had proposed withdrawing it from domestic use and the Europeans were also looking at it very closely. The answer, in the ensuing months, from the EPA, Victorian Department of Human Services, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), enHealth (Federal Environmental Health) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration was, ‘not much at all really, we really don’t think there’s a problem.’ In December 2002 the APVMA stated that there was not enough evidence to instigate a review, this was in spite of the U.S. and Europe planning its withdrawal – a decision I still find incomprehensible. We then asked for a formal review and, after much pressuring, the APVMA finally relented and announced a review in March 2003, a mere three months after stating a review was unnecessary.

In all of the Australian literature we looked at, we were unable to find any testing of the timber surface for residues of the chemicals. We were given permission to carry out testing of timber in a children’s school playground and found very high levels of copper, arsenic and chromium on the surface of the timber. This shocked everyone, as no-one had ever bothered to check if the arsenic, chromium and copper leached from the timber in these situations, and to find them at such high levels was indeed very disturbing.

Our residue testing is still the only published test ever carried out in Australia on children’s playground equipment!

In July 2003 the APVMA announced that unless there was conclusive proof that the continued use of CCA treated timber was safe, it would be banned from certain domestic situations by the end of 2003. The APVMA actually came to that conclusion in December 2003 but failed to act on their promise. Instead, we’ve been through a very lengthy process, which will finally culminate in a decision on the 15th March. We can only hope that the Ides of March are more favourable to us than they were to Caesar!

It’s certainly been a ‘long and winding road’ and marked by some very outrageous and irresponsible claims from the timber preserving industry. Harry Greaves, chair of Timber Preservers Association of Australia’s technical committee, who previously worked for the CSIRO on CCA timber research, was quoted in the Tasmanian Mercury as saying that ‘A child would need to crawl on a fresh deck every day of its life and lick up every piece of arsenic to have an increased risk’ (Whinnett, 2003). To read some of their claims check out Professor Sharon Beder’s new website dedicated to CCA treated timber.

We are hopeful that the APVMA will remain true to their word and remove this toxic timber from areas accessible to children. The U.S. government and the timber preservation industry came to an ‘understanding’ and withdrew CCA timber from most domestic uses including fence palings, retaining walls, decks, handrails, horse boxes, playgrounds and many other uses. The European Union have banned CCA treated timber from domestic use, citing children’s health as one of the major factors. It remains to be seen whether the APVMA buckles under industry pressure and makes a token gesture on this issue, or whether they have listened to public concerns and fulfill their promise to ban CCA timber totally from domestic situations.

There is also the unresolved issue of disposal at the end of its life. See the Overview and Submission for further information or log on to Professor Beder’s website and be prepared to be shocked.

STOP PRESS March 15th

APVMA bans CCA treated timber from most domestic applications

The APVMA announced this evening (15th March) that CCA treated timber can no longer be used in children’s play equipment, patio and domestic decking, garden furniture, picnic tables and exterior seating. It avoided a decision on existing structures, leaving it up to the State authorities to decide on a very contentious issue. This will certainly be worth watching as the APVMA has stated that, “…..It was found that exposure to CCA treated timber in some circumstances may pose an unacceptable public risk.” It was also determined that further worker exposure data to both arsenic and chromium was required to address identified concerns for worker safety. ‘Significant deficiencies’ were also found with labelling instructions of the timber. Labelling must now address issues of disposal, waste management and protection of the environment. Registrants must also submit specific worker exposure data to address concerns with arsenic and chromium exposure.

State authorities will be literally ‘freaking out’ over the issue of current structures. After all, if CCA treated timber is considered unsafe for use from now on, surely it must be considered unsafe for current structures?

So what will the States do? Absolutely nothing of course, as they will cite the U.S. and European recommendations that it’s OK to leave it where it is…….. and that makes no sense at all. Stay tuned for plenty of spin on this one!

Our position on this issue has finally been vindicated after a lengthy and, at times, bitter campaign. But to quote Arthur Schopenhauer, a 19th Century Philosopher:

“All truth passes through 3 stages:
First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

by Keith Loveridge

The National registration Authority (now called the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority – APVMA), has finally relented to our repeated requests for a review of CCA treated timber products. On March 13th 2003 the APVMA announced a review of the health and environmental effects of arsenic treated products, specifically CCA and arsenic trioxide. Submissions were called for by May 31st 2003. The Society has put in a comprehensive submission, asking that CCA treated timber products be banned from residential and aquatic situations, and that all children’s playgrounds, constructed from this material (left), be replaced with safer alternatives such as steel or recycled plastic materials.

The Society’s testing of the children’s playground equipment has been completed. Given the regulatory authorities and industry’s claim that no harmful residues are present on the timber after leaving the treatment plant, the results are quite staggering.

We tested for arsenic, chromium and copper residues using a wipe test, and were totally unprepared for the amounts that were dislodged in the test. The results measured in micrograms are as follows:


Total Chromium























Drinking water guidelines in Australia recommend a maximum level of 7 micrograms of arsenic per litre of water. For further information on testing of playgrounds see All Hands On Deck, a report by the Environmental Working Group in the U.S. and available at :