A house can last a lifetime. If another family moves in after you move out, that’s at least 100 years or more of constant use. Regular maintenance should be a concern of any homeowner, but what about the construction process that took place long before you came into the picture? Today, preservative-treated wood is being used as a way to combat deterioration due to wood destroying insects or fungi. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the process of treating fresh-cut logs or lumber with preservatives affects the building material, transportation, agriculture and recreation industries. That’s because such wood is used in fences, building materials, crop containers, lawn furniture and playgrounds.
All preservatives used in the treatment process are periodically evaluated for registration by the EPA and some have been voluntarily withdrawn for residential applications such as chromate copper arsenate (CCA). Therefore, some older and since-banned materials do end up in landfills. In instances such as this where environmental concerns are a factor, wood science expert Todd Shupe can help study the situation and consider the possible effects. Todd Shupe, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in forestry from the University of Illinois; a Master’s Degree in wood science from the University of Illinois; and a Ph.D. in wood science, knows the effect that this process can have on ecosystes and groundwater. At issue today is the environmental impacts of preservative-treated wood, alternatives to landfills and developing metal-free preservatives. According to the EPA, ability to control rot, decay and deter insects are the upshots of preservatives. The considerations the agency must make during registration and evaluation of preservative chemicals include potential hazards and the possible effects on human and environmental health.
For Shupe, who has spent more than two decades advising, educating and assessing, the steps that EPA is taking are crucial when considering the impacts that these treated materials have after disposal. Returning to our original point, there’s a reason why these new homes last a lifetime or two. When they are finally torn down to make way for future progress, the landfill is the most likely destination. With that in mind, Shupe says the continuing monitoring of the preservative treatment process by the EPA is due diligence at its most important.