Beginning in 2004, virtually all residential uses of products treated with chromated copper arsenate (CCA) will be banned.

Responding to a worldwide market that is demanding alternatives, the four registrants of CCA products -- Osmose, Chemical Specialties, Phibro-Tech, and Arch Wood Protection -- petitioned the EPA to cancel two products altogether and to amend the end use and manufacturing use of several others. On March 17, the EPA granted that request, phasing out all but two residential uses of the products, agricultural fence posts and permanent wood foundations (PWFs).

According to information on the EPA's Web site, many farmers and ranchers depend on the fence posts. The EPA determined that the posts are not available to consumers, and therefore decided to defer action on them. It was unclear why PWFs are not part of the phase-out. Both products will be re-evaluated as part of the EPA's normal registration process. A preliminary risk assessment of CCA should be published later this year.

David Deegan, an EPA spokesman, stresses that this action was not a result of any new information regarding the safety of the pesticide. However, CCA contains arsenic, a known toxin. "We certainly support reducing the potential exposure to arsenic," Deegan says. Deegan also stresses that "we are not saying that there is a need to remove an existing structure" containing CCA-treated lumber.