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[greenyes] How safe is your mulch?
Thought this article might be of interest. Any thoughts?

Brenda Platt
Institute for Local Self-Reliance
June 3, 2003

How safe is your mulch? It's hard to tell
Glenn Jones

LEE COUNTY, June 2, 2003 ? The common landscaping mulch many use around
their yards could be toxic, because mulch sometimes comes from
chemically treated wood. Whenever that happens, arsenic residue might
end up as close as your front door.

When the Cheffer family embarked on their five-day project to build a
new backyard playground, they figured they?d use about 75 bags of mulch.
What they didn?t know was that there is a chance a known carcinogen is
in that mulch.

"I wouldn't think about contamination in mulch of a playground," said
Brian Cheffer.

The truth is it?s tough to know which mulch is potentially dangerous.

At Fort Myers Forestry Resources, almost all mulch comes directly from
trees. But at smaller mulching plants, recycled material often goes
through the grinder ? and if that old wood from the house or deck was
treated with chromated copper arsenate, it winds up in the mulch, and
sometimes on a playground.

"You can imagine how much it leeches when the rains come. The arsenic's
in the soil and you can imagine what it does to people and their hands,"
said Alan Shaffer of Forestry Resources.

In a worst-case scenario, arsenic treated products can cause cancer in
children after prolonged exposure. Statistics show somewhere from 2 to
10 children out of a million will get cancer from chromated copper
arsenate, which is also found in swingsets, decks, and playground

"I figured if you buy it from Home Depot or Lowe's, it's safe. They
recommend it for playgrounds, so I figured it's safe," Cheffer said.

There is one surefire way to make sure your mulch is coming from a
virgin source. Check the label to see if says "No Recycled Material." If
it does, you should be able to rest easy.

But even then, no government agency regulates what kind of wood goes
into the grinder or into the bag.

"There's no true standards, no governing body. So it's left up to the
companies and business associated with this industry to monitor
themselves," said U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.

Nelson says he wants new legislation making it illegal to mulch
arsenic-treated wood.

"I filed legislation and we're going to make it a law," Nelson said.

Nelson says the Environmental Protection Agency is dragging its feet on
the issue, so he decided to draft his own legislation.

If it passes, it should provide peace of mind to consumers who didn't
know that their labor of love could lead to a serious playground danger.

New Option
A Fort Myers company is marketing a safe, alternative mulch that also
eliminates another Southwest Florida problem ? invasive species.

Florimulch is made out of non-native melaleuca trees into mulch.
Melaleucas damage native plants and state officials have gone to great
lengths to stop their spread.

A bag of Florimulch costs a little more than $2.

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