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Arsenic-free wood available at Tampa store

By JULIE HAUSERMAN

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 2, 2001


For the first time, Tampa Bay consumers can buy pressure-treated lumber that doesn't have arsenic in it. But beware: It may cost as much as 50 percent more than regular pressure-treated wood, at least until more people start asking for it.

For the first time, Tampa Bay consumers can buy pressure-treated lumber that doesn't have arsenic in it. But beware: It may cost as much as 50 percent more than regular pressure-treated wood, at least until more people start asking for it.

The wood is available at West Coast Fence of Tampa on Hillsborough Avenue. The owners, Pete and John Gavaghan, say they have arsenic-free fencing in stock, but have to special order other types of boards for decking and other products.

The wood comes from Sunbelt Forest Products in Bartow, which this month opened the first arsenic-free wood treatment plant in Florida. "We're just in the very infancy of this," said Sunbelt president Carl Holland.

As consumers grow wary of the arsenic that's leaking out of regular pressure-treated wood, some private manufacturers and retailers are hoping to get a head start on the arsenic-free market.

"(Recent publicity) has just forced the hand of the treating companies in terms of providing a safer product," said John Gavaghan, co-owner of West Coast Fence.

The major home improvement stores like Lowe's and Home Depot still aren't carrying the alternative wood.

But last week, a national wooden play set manufacturer announced it has switched to arsenic-free treated wood. The Georgia-based PlayNation company will no longer make play sets with arsenic-treated wood. Their play sets are sold locally by PlayNation of Tampa at 7246 N Dale Mabry Highway.

"We have a viable alternative, and that's what our customers tell us they want," said PlayNation vice president David Seitz.

He said the play sets are a little more expensive than ones made with arsenic-treated wood, but that the price difference is "minuscule."

Florida regulators are hoping to create more demand for arsenic-free treated wood. There's a moratorium on arsenic-treated wood in all state parks, and the state is hoping to attract bidders that offer arsenic-free treated wood to use in the parks.

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