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CCA Treatment in Playground Equipment

Michael Goldschmidt, AIA, Resident Instruction Assistant Professor, Housing and Environmental Design Extension Specialist, Department of Architectural Studies, University of Missouri

In the past few months I have fielded a number of questions concerning the abundance of CCA wood treatment in playground equipment.


To summarize the issue, CCA Treatment (chromated copper arsenic) was used until recently in wood that was exposed to weather, such as playground equipment. CCA was a preservative that kept wood from rotting and was required by building codes for just about all wood used outside. It is estimated that about 90 percent of children’s playground equipment contains CCA.
A few years back, the EPA began a voluntary program of eliminating CCA from wood due to the health effects, especially children. The concern is children rubbing their hands on the equipment then ingesting the CCA material.


If you want specific information about the EPA’s work in this area, here is the main link:


Here’s a good link for Q&A on the issue:


All of us should be aware that there are lots of questions about what to do with all of these playgrounds. In general, it is not necessary or desirable that everyone dismantle these playgrounds. What is typically recommended now is that they be encapsulated.

Encapsulation is a process where a wood protective penetrating sealer is applied. This sealer then protects the wood from rain, snow, etc., but also holds the CCA treatment in the wood. The EPA is suggesting that encapsulating the wood is safe and greatly reduces exposure to CCA. Note that paint is not a penetrating sealer. Paint will peel from the wood and expose the wood again. These penetrating sealers are more specialized coatings that migrate deep into the wood.

The best sealers are those that are oil based and listed as penetrating type. Many of these sealers are non-toxic and safe. The best ones are coatings that have no VOCs (volatile organic compounds have their own problems with health).


For a technical report on the use of sealers on wood, here’s a good link:


Here’s a summary of the above document for those who do not have time to read the document: Use a penetrating sealer once a year on the playground equipment.




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Last update: Wednesday, May 06, 2009