Billboard campaign shouts against arsenic-treated wood
By RYAN MALDONADO
CLEARWATER -- State Rep. Larry Crow said he had no other choice but to "shock" the public and the wood-treatment industry about the dangers on Florida's playgrounds.
The shock is a billboard Crow unveiled Wednesday morning that features a large photo of smiling children clutching the wooden logs of a playground set. Next to the photo are the words "Arsenic is poison."
The billboard marks the start of a new ad campaign aimed at informing consumers about wood that contains arsenic.
"It is not right to have poison at the very place we ask children to come play," said Crow, R-Palm Harbor. "There is increased exposure to children ... and there are unquantifiable, unknown risks to those children because of the added levels of arsenic found in the soils in and around the playground."
The billboard on Ulmerton Road comes about a week before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency releases a report on lumber that contains arsenic.
"We are encouraging (those) informed about the risk of arsenic to contact your federal representatives to ask them to please adhere to the EPA schedule ... to come out with their findings on arsenic-treated wood," Crow said.
He said the ad is a hard-nose response to the way wood-treatment industry lobbyists and representatives in November 2001 killed his bill to ban arsenic-treated wood from public playgrounds.
"We had a much more, 'Be informed about the risk of arsenic (ad),' " Crow said. "But after the industry mercilessly killed the bill ... we decided, 'Hey, if they want to play that game ... we'll tell them what the truth is.' "
Crow teamed with the Florida Public Interest Research Group, which runs a Web site informing consumers about arsenic, to produce the ad. Clear Channel Outdoor, a Tampa-based outdoor advertising company, agreed to provide the campaign with ad space.
The "arsenic is poison" billboard will travel to other locations in Pinellas County for the next few months until the campaign gets more funding for production. The current billboard, at 5555 Ulmerton Road in Clearwater, will be moved at the end of the week to U.S. 19, north of Tarpon Avenue E.
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