If you're a loyal reader of these pages, you've followed the CCA pressure-treated lumber story. For those who aren't (and shame on you!), here's a quick recap: Last year, manufacturers announced a "voluntary phaseout" of most residential uses of the product, continuing to make it only for use in permanent wood foundations and agricultural fence posts. In late 2003, the EPA released the results of a draft risk assessment of the lumber, which indicated that children with prolonged exposure to CAA (mainly through decks and playground equipment) may have a slightly higher risk of developing cancer. The results, however, were subject to review by the EPA-commissioned Scientific Advisory Panel (SAP), whose job it was to review the methodology used in the risk assessment, not to comment on the results.

The SAP finished in early February, and despite affirming much of the EPA's work, they did have some suggestions to improve the scientific method used in the assessment. As a result, "the EPA is looking at those recommendations and suggestions, identifying what can be done to improve the assessment," says Dave Deegan, EPA spokesman. This means that conclusive results won't be available for quite some time.

In the meantime, your clients may come to you with concerns, spurred on by media reports. If they need further assurance beyond what you can tell them, direct them to the EPA's Web site on this matter.

If your crews are working with CCA-treated lumber and you want to be extra careful about their safety, have them take the standard precautions: Encourage them to wear protective eye-wear, dust masks, and gloves, and have them thoroughly wash, using soap and water, any skin exposed to the product.