Treating timber

The discontinuation of chromated copper arsenate is seen as increasing the cost of residential lumber.
Sunday, January 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:44 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

The familiar green, treated lumber that is used to build decks, fences and playground equipment will become less familiar in 2004.

In February of 2002, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that the wood treatment industry had voluntarily decided to gradually discontinue its production of chromated copper arsenate in residential products by Dec. 31, 2003.

The chemical compound is injected into wood to protect it from dry rot, fungi, molds, termites and others pest. The three main producers of CCA, Arch Wood Protection, Chemical Specialties Inc., and Osmose Inc., voluntarily chose to transition to alternative wood treatments to reduce concern about potential long-term exposure risk to children. While there has been no confirming evidence of negative effects, studies are still being conducted.

Sentinel Lumber and Hardware in Ashland received its last shipment of CCA treated residential lumber this week. Residential lumber is any lumber measuring three-fourths, 1, or 11/2 inches thick. This encompasses 2-by-6, 2-by-8 and 2-by-10 foot board.

“There is definitely going to be a cost change,” said Danny Farris, manager of Sentinel Lumber. “This lumber is going to cost more. Consumers are also going to have to use high galvanized fasteners that are going to cost more, too.”

The standard fasteners for CCA wood were hot-dipped galvanize 60. Because of the additional copper in the new wood treatments, to prevent corrosion of the fastener’s those woods require a galvanization of 180, triple the galvanization of the standard.

The exact lumber cost increase is still unknown to retailers. Most believe that the initial cost increase will dwindle, however, once all the suppliers are converted to alterative production and market supply and demand takes over.

“We all had other products for which there was less concern,” said Huck DeVenzio, manager of Marketing Communication for Arch Wood Protection . “We decided as an industry to make an orderly transition to a new product and limit the use in application where exposure to children and humans is the greatest.”

Lumberyards and hardware stores are still allowed to sell their current stock of CCA treated lumber. However, once supplies are depleted, retailers will only be selling residential use lumber treated with alkaline copper quat, known as ACQ, or copper azole. Neither contains the arsenic or chromium of CCA, but both provide its primary fungicide function and its greenish tint.

Estimates taken by Jimmy Williams, Missouri Department of Agriculture Forest Resource Program Coordinator, indicate that Missouri generates $1 million in the sale of treated wood. This number includes wood treated by CCA, copper naphthenate, pentachlorophenol and creosote.

“CCA made up the bulk of that sale, so it could definitely have an effect on Missouri’s business,” Williams said.

Curt Bean Lumber, one of Missouri’s top three leading treatment facilities, converted its Buckner, Mo., treatment plant to use copper azole three weeks ago.

“All treaters are sad to see CCA go because it was a good treatment, but we’re on the cutting edge and willing to change,” said Linda Priddy, sales manager at Curt Bean Lumber Co. “If it makes it safer for our children and the environment, we’re all willing to change.”

Curt Bean Lumber will now produce and estimated 120 million feet of copper azole treated lumber and 20 million feet of CCA compared to last year when it was producing 130 million feet of CCA and 15 million feet of copper azole.

“The chemical cost tripled,” Priddy said. “When you put it on lumber, it’s about a 25 percent increase in the consumer cost of the lumber. Unless you priced a deck last year, though, it won’t seem that much different.”

The EPA still allows CCA treated wood to be produced and sold for agricultural purposes.

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