Toxic Youth: “When my husband and I set out to find a nursery school for our daughter, Faith, nearly 10 years ago, we took the decision seriously. I looked at large parent-run cooperatives and small home-based operations. Jeff visited the Montessori school on the hill and the Waldorf school in the valley. In the end, we chose a nursery school close to home with a frog pond out front, a play structure out back, and trees full of chickadees and nuthatches. We had weighed many considerations, and we all, Faith included, were happy.
“That is, until I discovered that the school’s beloved play structure—with its wooden gangway, turrets, and tunnels—was made out of pressure-treated lumber, which, at the time, contained arsenic, a carcinogen. A bladder carcinogen, in fact. I am a bladder cancer survivor and am familiar with all the ongoing medical surveillance this disease requires. So, after a lot of research and discussion, we moved our daughter to a different nursery school. The risk of doing nothing just seemed too high.
“Seven years later, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final risk assessment for wood impregnated with chromated copper arsenate. The conclusion: Children who play frequently on pressure-treated play sets and decks experience elevated cancer risks. And yet, because the EPA stopped short of recalling preexisting structures when it outlawed arsenic-treated lumber for residential use in 2004, the play set at our old nursery school still stands.”
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