Make your own free website on
Reasons why pentachlorophenol pressure-treated wood proposed to be used in the wooden housing for the Pickman Park mailboxes is a concern:
Pentachlorophenol pressure treated wood is just as undesirable as CCA pressure-treated wood, because the Material Safety Data sheet for pentachlorophenol treated wood states "pentachlorophenol is absorbed readily through unprotected skin"; "Inhalation: Concentrations of 0.3 milligrams per cubic meter pentachlorophenol can cause nose irritation. Concentrations in excess of 1 milligram per cubic meter can cause irritation of the upper respiratory tract with sneezing and coughing"; "Overexposure should be avoided since failure to do so could result in injury, illness, or even death. Chronic overexposure to technical-grade pentachlorophenol has caused liver and kidney toxic effects in experimental animals"; "Epidemiologic studies of the furniture industry have shown an increased incidence of nasal tumors related to wood dust exposure"; Carcinogenicity: Pentachlorophenol has been evaluated for possible cancer causation in laboratory animals. Male and female mice evaluated by the National Toxicology Program were fed up to 400 parts per million of technical grade pentachlorophenol and up to 600 parts per million purified pentachlorophenol 5 days a week for 106 weeks. A statistically significant increase in liver and endocrine tumors occurred in the male mice, while an increase in vascular tumors occurred in the female mice. The female mice also had an increase in liver tumors... This wood contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm". "Reproductive toxicity: The US EPA has determined that pentachlorophenol can cause defects in the offspring of laboratory animals. Exposure to pentachlorophenol during pregnancy should be avoided." "Avoid frequent or prolonged skin contact with pentachlorophenol-treated wood. When handling the treated wood, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants of tightly woven fabric. Use gloves impervious to the chemicals"; "Logs treated with pentachlorophenol should not be used for log homes. Wood treated with pentachlorophenol should not be used where it will be in frequent or prolonged contact with bare skin (for example, chairs and other outdoor furniture), unless an effective sealer has been applied. Pentachlorophenol-treated woods should not be used in residential, industrial or commercial interiors".
Because of the documented carcinogenic effects of pentachlorophenol in microscopically small concentrations, it seems to me irresponsible to introduce it to Pickman Park. Some Board members say don't worry about pressure-treated wood, because it is already on your deck. However, we don't need to get close to our decks 200 times a year without a closed sliding glass door between us and it, as we will need to get close to wooden housing on the mailboxes. Moreover, the EPA doesn't recommend removal of pressure-treated wood at this time, because the wood dust created when such wood is sawed prior to removal creates an especially large exposure to the carcinogenic materials in it.  
We all are exposed to x-rays once a year due to dental x-rays.  Before, some people thought that meant it was fine to x-ray their feet to make sure shoes fit properly.  When this began to cause many cancers in the feet, x-ray machines were removed from shoe shops.  In the same way, just because we have pressure-treated wood on our decks doesn't mean we should be exposed to pressure-treated wood indiscriminately one foot away from our noses every time we pick up our mail.

Other links of interest:
EPA consumer fact sheet on pentachlorophenol

Hazard summary for pentachlorophenol

A case study where pentachlorophenol caused four cases of leukemia in 200 people exposed to it

Balancing the risks and benefits of pressure-treated wood  (in pdf format)

An online material safety data sheet for pentachlorophenol

Another material safety data sheet for pentachlorophenol  (in pdf format)
Note:  To view or print out pdf files, you may need the Adobe Acrobat reader, which you may download for free if you don't have it yet by clicking  here.

Please note:  The EPA does not at this time recommend removing or replacing pressure-treated structures, including decks.  When such structures are removed without proper care, an enhanced chance of exposure to the toxic chemicals in the pressure treated wood occurs (such as when the wood is sawed in order to remove it and sawdust is released).  The EPA says, "Some studies suggest that applying certain penetrating coatings (e.g., oil-based, semi-transparent stains) on a regular basis (e.g., once per year or every other year depending upon wear and weathering) may reduce the migration of wood preservative chemicals from CCA-treated wood."  Hence, it seems irresponsible to build new pressure treated structures (such as mailbox housings) now, especially when cluster mailboxes without $20,000 of wooden housing (like the one near 38 Atlantic Avenue & Rolleston Road in Marblehead) are good enough for people in Marblehead.  The question arises as to why such a cluster mailbox isn't it good enough for us in Salem.

Back to Pickman Park Focus home page