Playground Soil Tested for Arsenic Berkeley
Daniela Mohor, Berkeley Daily Planet,
June 22, 2001
The American Chemistry Council, an
organization representing the U.S. chemical industry, tested the soil
at the Cedar and Rose Park playground in north Berkeley Thursday, to
determine whether the site is contaminated with arsenic.
The sampling plan of the laboratory commissioned by ACC
to do the analysis indicates that the Berkeley park is one of only five
playgrounds throughout the country to be tested. The ACC was not available
City officials say the testing may be related to the nationwide
controversy surrounding the safety of wooden play structures treated
with a preservative made of chromium, copper and arsenic (CCA). In Berkeley,
at least four parks, including Cedar and Rose present risks of arsenic
"They clearly decided to do it because there was
all this brouhaha," said Nabil Al-Hadithy, manager of the Toxics
The brouhaha started last March when three parks were
closed in Miami because arsenic leaching from CCA-treated wooden play
structures was found in the soil. Florida citizens' concern quickly
grew into a national worry. And in May, the Environmental Working group
and the Healthy Building Network asked the government to ban the use
of CCA-treated wood in playgrounds.
According to the study the two groups made public in Berkeley
that same month, a 5-year-old child exposed to that kind of equipment
for five hours a day, would reach his or her lifetime acceptable load
of arsenic in fewer than 14 days. The health risks of such exposure
include lung, bladder, and skin cancer.
The EWG/HBN report brought to light the negligence of
the city in meeting the codes adopted in 1987 by the California Department
of Health Services. According to these codes the arsenic-treated play
structures have to be coated with sealant every two years, but Berkeley
did it for a couple of years only.
After the study was made public, Parks and Waterfront
department Director Lisa Caronna, immediately addressed the issue. She
had the hazardous structures coated and plans to replace them within
five years. However, officials fear that contaminants have leached into
the soil during the years the structures were not protected.
"The concern is the dusting and the fact that with
the run off the soil is contaminated too, because there was a long period
of time when it wasn't coated and the sealant was lost," said L
A Wood, vice chair of the Community Environmental Advisory Commission,
who attended Thursday's sample collection.
The, results of the American Chemistry Council's soil
analysis should be available in two and one-half weeks. But to the city,
the ACC'S findings make little difference. Caronna said she was pleased
that the ACC, unlike other organizations in the past, informed the city
of the testing and asked officials to supervise the sample collection.
But she added that it will not influence city policies -- the Parks
Department will soon do an independent and thorough soil analysis.
"From our perspective, we want to know if there is
any other site that presents a danger," she said.
The testing should be done in the next couple of months
if the City Council approves the recommendation that the Community Environmental
Advisory Commission will present to it July 17.
Among other things, the commission requests the
city replace all CCA-treated structures, test all playgrounds with treated
wood and address the problem of Berkeley's non city-owned playgrounds,
including those belonging to the school district, private schools and
day care centers.