Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Arsenic in Old Wood?
I heard that there is arsenic in wood used to build outdoor decks, that kids can get the arsenic on their hands and that the stuff is carcinogenic. Do you have any information on this? I'm very worried.
Answer (Published 2/1/2005)

You're right. There is arsenic in lumber that has been used for years to make decks, fences, picnic tables and even some playground equipment. Technically speaking, the lumber is treated with chromium copper arsenate (CCA), a preservative used to prevent the wood from decaying. The good news is that since the beginning of this year, lumber manufacturers are no longer selling wood impregnated with CCA. But that isn't much comfort if you have young children and an old deck or old yard and porch furniture.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor for Your Whole Body - Foods, herbs and drugs can all interact, sometimes in unexpected ways. Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor takes known interactions into account when developing nutritional supplement recommendations, to help safeguard against adverse effects. Learn more, and get your free, personalized Dr. Weil's Vitamin Advisor recommendation today.

Although arsenic is a carcinogen, manufacturers insist that the old, treated wood is safe for people, plants and animals when used as recommended. However, advocacy groups maintain that the chemical can rub off on contact and that the lumber remains dangerous for 10 to 15 years. And a staff report to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission concluded that children exposed to the treated wood may face an increased lifetime risk of lung or bladder cancer.

If you have a deck made with CCA-treated lumber, you can test it for arsenic by ordering test kits online for about $20. Results will tell you how much arsenic is in wood. You can then decide if you want to replace the furniture or insist that your kids wash their hands well after playing on it, especially before eating.

You can also protect your family by applying a sealant to CCA-treated wood. Pigmented deck stains provide the most protection, but you'll have to reseal frequently, as often as twice a year. If you decide to use a sealant, be sure not to sand the deck beforehand 'sanding will release arsenic-laden sawdust. Be sure to wear a protective mask! And don't pressure-wash your deck before sealing - the high pressure water can loosen arsenic-contaminated particles and release them into the air. You can learn more about this issue through the Washington-based Environmental Working Group at

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here