Feature Articles - Housing
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
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
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.
Last update: Wednesday, May 06, 2009