Skip Maine state header navigation

Agencies | Online Services | Help













TO:                 Superintendents of Schools


FROM:           Susan A. Gendron, Commissioner


DATE:            June 28, 2004


RE:                 Arsenic-treated wood and playground safety


In 2003, the Governor signed into law 2003 P.L. Chapter 457, “An Act to Protect Public Health by Reducing Exposure to Arsenic.”  As of April 2004, this law has eliminated the sale of nearly all arsenic-treated wood and also established proper disposal criteria.  In conjunction with this law, all Superintendents are asked to make necessary changes to the operations and maintenance of playground equipment that may be arsenic-treated.


Arsenic-treated wood has been used since the 1930’s, but the Maine Bureau of Health has testified citing recent studies that show this wood is a greater threat to health than originally believed.  Arsenic increases the risk of skin, lung, and bladder cancer.  The risk of cancer increases the more often a person comes in contact with the arsenic-treated wood.  Children are especially at risk due to common use of playground equipment and hand-to-mouth behavior.  Children can ingest arsenic residue from direct contact with the wood or by indirect contact from toys that have come in contact with the arsenic-treated wood.


The arsenic-treated wood can be identified by a greenish tint.  However, this tint wears off over time.  To identify arsenic-treated wood you can contact the wood provider or play set constructor.  There are also inexpensive test kits available.  Contact the Maine Bureau of Health or the Department of Environmental Protection for more information about arsenic testing.


In order to protect people from exposure to arsenic, the Environmental Protection Agency recommends sealing all arsenic-treated wood annually with a penetrating oil sealer or stain.  This will limit the amount of arsenic reaching the surface of the wood.  The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises that children should not each while on play sets and children should be encouraged to wash their hands after play.


2003 P.L. Chapter 457 An Act to Protect Public Health by Reducing Exposure to Arsenic, can be found at:


Environmental Impacts and arsenic-treated wood information can be found at:


Arsenic information and protective measures can be found at:


Maine Bureau of Health Fact Sheet:


Test Kits (not affiliated with State of Maine Agencies):


We trust you will take these protective measures for the children’s safety.  If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Andrew Smith, State Toxicologist, Maine Bureau of Health, at Andrew.E.Smith@Maine.Gov  (207) 287-5189, Jay Readinger, Construction Specialist, Department of Education, at Jay.Readinger@Maine.Gov  (207) 624-6886, or Scott Brown, AIA, Director of School Facilities, Department of Education, at Scott.Brown@Maine.Gov  (207) 624-6883.


Thanks for your cooperation.