On January 1, a new era began in the U.S. lumber industry as the deadline to cease production of CCA-treated wood for residential use passed. The phase-out of CCA, a voluntary move by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and wood treatment producers in response to growing consumer concern about arsenic contained in CCA-treated wood, has triggered the introduction of replacement products for outdoor use, alkaline copper quat (ACQ) and copper azole, to the U.S. market by the country's three primary treatment manufacturers: Osmose's ACQ-based Nature Wood, Chemical Specialties' ACQ-based Preserve, and Arch Wood Protection's copper azole–based Natural Select.
To date, it appears that the transition is going fairly smoothly. December 31 was the deadline for ceasing production of CCA, and since many suppliers kept treating with CCA until the end, some yards may still have CCA-treated wood in stock for several months. Despite this, Huck DeVenzio, manager of marketing communications for Arch Wood Protection, isn't expecting an inventory shortage, especially since many of the treaters had already prepared their facilities for the switch.
Richard Kleiner, director of treated markets for the Southern Pine Council (SPC), agrees: “I think the industry is ready for the transition, and I don't believe there's going to be any problem with availability or distribution in supply of treated lumber.”
But while the transition is going well, the topic of treated wood is far from being yesterday's news. In early November, the EPA released for scientific review a Draft Preliminary Risk Assessment with initial findings that indicate that children exposed to CCA may have a higher risk of getting cancer. “It's safe to say that the draft risk assessment indicates that may be the case,” confirms Dave Deegan, spokesman for the EPA.
The results, however, are still in the very early stages and the EPA is stressing that it is still too early to draw definite conclusions from the findings. The risk also may correlate with a number of variables, such as climate differences. At this point, the agency is not recommending that homeowners tear down existing decks or playground structures, a fact Kleiner believes generally reassures the public that the EPA does not consider CCA-treated lumber to be a significant risk.
The Wood Preservative Science Council was quick to decry the research results in a statement that called the EPA's Draft Assessment “an insufficient tool for regulatory decision making.” According to the statement, “The study fails to appropriately consider the wealth of sound science, which has supported the safe use of CCA pressure treated wood over the last 70 years and continues to support its safety.” The Council also cites recently released Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that indicate that playground wood may pose less risk of arsenic exposure over time than rice and other foods.
Nail Down Another issue that's been in the media spotlight recently is the question of which fasteners are appropriate for use with the new materials, especially since some fastener providers were concerned that the higher corrosivity of the new woods might affect both the appearance and performance of nails and screws. The topic is settling down somewhat and more defined recommendations have emerged.
Wood treatment manufacturers are recommending the same fastener types they did for CCA—hot-dipped galvanized or stainless steel; however, they are specifying that installers should use only hot-dipped galvanized fasteners that meet ASTM A153 testing standards and connectors that meet ASTM A653 Class G185 sheet or better. The manufacturers provide additional fastener information and recommendations on their Web sites.
Many of the major fastener and connector manufacturers have conducted their own tests of products and are making individual recommendations of which products in their lines are appropriate for the new materials. Some, including Plating Technology, PrimeSource, and Stanley-Bostitch, have introduced products specifically for one or both of the new wood treatment types.
As a dealer, your best bet is to check with both your wood provider and your fastener vendors to find out which fasteners are recommended for various materials. In addition, Simpson Strong-Tie reminds installers not to mix hot-dipped galvanized and stainless steel fasteners and connectors, and the SPC advises that installers should not use standard carbon-steel, aluminum, copper, or copper-based metals in direct contact with pressure treated wood.