Fight Arsenic in Your Backyard

Lynn Keiley shares a list of suggestions to help you fight arsenic in your backyard, including information on testing wood, protecting your family against arsenic-tainted wood and disposing properly of CCA-treated wood.

Learn how to fight arsenic in your backyard structures.

Learn how to fight arsenic in your backyard structures.


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Learn how you can fight arsenic in your backyard with these helpful tips.

Fight Arsenic in Your Back Yard

So, you now fear that your deck or worse, your children's play equipment, is permeated with arsenic. What should you do?

Test the soil. If you have CCA-treated wood around your vegetable beds, test the soil to find out if it contains dangerous levels of arsenic. A certain amount of arsenic occurs naturally, but too much inhibits plant growth. Contact the Environmental Working Group (EWG) for low-cost tests for arsenic-tainted soil [].

Replace what you can. It's not the easiest choice, but it really is the best long-term solution. Even if you can't afford to replace an entire piece, try to replace surfaces that will be making skin contact, such as handrails.

Seal it. Until recently, the standard recommendation was to seal the wood at least once a year with polyurethane. However, the EWG has found that regular use, along with weather, breaks down the sealants in just a few months. They recommend re-sealing every six months — a wise move for anything you can't replace.

Wash your hands. Head for soap any time you make contact with CCA, and be especially vigilant about washing children's hands.

Stay clear. Keep children and pets out of the soil around pressure-treated decks or play sets. They can pick up particles of arsenic from the soil and ingest this carcinogen.

Dispose of it properly. CCA-treated wood should never be burned — the toxic chemicals used to treat it become concentrated in the ashes. Until better alternatives are available, the best course of action is to take the wood to a landfill. Some landfills, however, no longer accept this material, so check before you load the truck.

Take action. The next time you build, use recycled or nontoxic lumbers. Shop for alternative wood in your area by using the arsenic-free lumber locator via Buying a play set for your children? For a list of manufacturers who build with arsenic-free wood, contact the Center for Environmental Health []. Lobby your community to test and, if needed, replace wood structures at public playgrounds. Planet Playgrounds ( is one manufacturer that makes ACQ-treated commercial playground equipment. You also can contact the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ( to support advocacy groups' push to ban CCA-treated wood in playground equipment.