Environmentalists Release 'Poison Poles' Report and Launch Campaign: Cite Widespread Contamination and Poisoning from Use of wood Preservatives on Utility Poles and Availability of Alternatives

    Environmentalists today released a report documenting widespread contamination and poisoning from the single largest pesticide group, wood preservatives, and launched a campaign to stop their use. The chemicals, used widely to extend the life of wood products including over 100 million utility poles, contain some of the most hazardous toxic contaminants on the market, according to the report, entitled "Poison Poles: Their Toxic Trail and the Safer Alternatives." The chemicals include pentachlorophenol, creosote, arsenic and chromium VI and contaminants such as dioxins, furans and hexachlorobenzene.

    According to the Environmental Protection Agency, wood preservatives account for over one-third of all pesticide use. The report's authors say the volume could actually be as high as 1.6 billion pounds, which would account for more than all other pesticide uses combined. The chemicals are used to protect wood from insects, bacteria and fungus. The report traces the "toxic trail" of wood preservatives, including their production, wood treatment, installation of poles, transportation, storage, and disposal. At every point along the toxic trail, the report documents contamination and poisoning. The authors point to what they call a failed regulatory process that they say does not provide adequate protection of public health and the environment. Cited is the EPA's failure to consider the viability of poles made from other materials, such as concrete and steel.

    Jay Feldman, executive director of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides and an author of the report says, "EPA has ignored the magnitude of the wood preservative problem from chemical production to wood treatment and disposal, allowing the contamination and poisoning to go on despite the availability of alternative pole materials."

    The group cites at least 795 wood preserving facilities across the country and hundreds of Superfund hazardous waste sites that are contaminated with wood preservatives.

    Lois Gibbs, executive director of CCHW: Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, maintains: "Wood preservatives are the culprit chemicals in contaminating hundreds of communities across the country. There is no good reason to allow the poisoning to continue." A representative from Citizens Against Toxic Exposure in a Pensacola, Fla., neighborhood, which EPA recently announced it would relocate because of wood preservative contamination from a nearby wood preserving facility, said, "EPA should move quickly to protect communities that suffer the adverse health effects from wood preservatives, including sickness, cancer, and reproductive problems."

    The groups blame EPA for what they call a failed regulatory process that compromises the health and safety of people under pressure from the chemical and wood preserving industry. They believe that utility companies should adopt safer practices by using alternative pole materials.

    The National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (NCAMP), a national coalition of community-based organizations and people founded in 1981, operates a national information clearinghouse on pesticide hazards and alternatives to their use, and advocates for changes in policies and practices to stop and prevent pesticide poisoning and contamination.

    CCHW: Center for Health, Environment and Justice is a 16-year-old, nonprofit organization founded in 1981 by Lois Marie Gibbs, leader of the campaign at Love Canal. In 1981, the main focus of the organization (then called the Citizens Clearinghouse For Hazardous Waste) was helping community groups suffering from the effects of toxic dumps similar to Love Canal. Since then, the group has expanded its programs to match the expanding environmental health concerns of grassroots groups.

    Citizens Against Toxic Exposure is a community group founded in 1992 to deal with the health threat to nearby residents and former workers at a wood treating site in Pensacola, Fla.
    For a fact sheet on "poison poles" and state-by-state numbers on related health threats, contact: Jay Feldman, National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, 202-543-5450 (voice) or e-mail, ncamp1/2igc.apc.org.

    SOURCE National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides

    CONTACT: Jay Feldman of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, 202-543-5450 or, e-mail, ncamp1/2igc.apc.org

Copyright 1997 PR Newswire Association, Inc.
PR Newswire
February 4, 1997, Tuesday
SECTION: Washington Dateline
LOAD-DATE: February 5, 1997