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June 6, 2001

Dear Editor

     Recently a friend of mine said that a neighbor on the Caloosahatchee removed his old dock, stacked it along the shore and burned it. He asked if this was bad since it was Pressure Treated. (Pressure-treated wood is composed of a solution of copper-toxic to the fungi that cause rot, arsenic-an insecticide and chromium-a binder that locks the pesticide into the wood). After some investigation I found that when P.T. lumber is burned, the arsenic is no longer bound up in the wood but becomes a free compound once again. 

     If after burning, the arsenic is now a free compound, then how much arsenic is in P.T. wood? A single 12 foot long 2 x 6 contains more than an ounce of arsenic; enough to kill 250 adults if they were to ingest it. But since itís mixed with ash it would take about 5 tablespoons of the ash to kill a 1,100 pound cow; or a single tablespoonful could kill a 150-pound human. Last year over 57 million pounds of arsenic were used in P.T. lumber in the United States alone. 

     You can see how potentially toxic that fire was to all the life in the river and those humans who get their drinking water from it. Luckily or unluckily it washed into a large body of water and was diluted. However, if a similar fire is burned next to a pond or small creek it could have terrible consequences. 

     So please donít burn P.T. wood, it will release the arsenic into the nearest water body or leach into the aquifer. Better yet ask you lumber store to stock ACQ treated lumber instead of standard CCA treated wood. One more thing, seal or paint your P.T. to prevent it from leaching and tell your neighbors about this information.

Rob Andrys

President, Caloosahatchee RiverWatch



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