In its recently released 13th Report on Carcinogens, the US Department of Health and Human Services has added pentachlorophenol (PCP) to its list of carcinogenic substances. The fact that this substance is now a recognized carcinogen is troubling because it is so commonly used throughout our towns and cities.
Along with being listed as a “probable carcinogen,” PCP is also linked to neurotoxicity, kidney and liver damage, birth complications, and hormonal disruption, according to the nonprofit organization Beyond Pesticides. It is also designated as toxic to birds and fish, making it a notable environmental pollutant.
The authors of the new report write, “evidence from epidemiological studies suggests that a causal relationship between exposure to pentachlorophenol and NHL [non-Hodgkins lymphoma] is credible.” However, the authors go on to say that this evidence is limited by the size of previous studies, and that more research needs to be done to establish causality.
So, where would one come into contact with PCP? Sadly, one wouldn’t have to go far. This preservative is used to treat wood for industrial uses, including utility poles, fence posts and railroad tracks. In addition, it functions as an herbicide and insecticide.
PCP is luckily no longer used to treat residential wood, but the both wood treatments in industrial areas, and herbicides used for agriculture, can harm both people and animals through inhalation, rain runoff and direct contact.
Despite the fact that PCP made the official list of carcinogens, its use has not been banned or restricted. This is because the EPA considers it useful, and because it is used to “contribute benefits to society.” But, with so many risks involved, shouldn’t those in charge be scrambling to replace it with a safer option?
If you wish to know if pentachlorophenol wood treatments are used around your city, get in touch with your county government. Also, if it be your voice, let your local representatives know that you do not want to see PCP wood treatments in future urban construction – it takes action for change to occur, however slowly.
-The Alternative Daily