All pesticides, including wood preservatives, must be registered and approved for use by the U.S. EPA under the terms of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Authority (PMRA). Many of the preservatives used to treat utility poles have been registered for more than 50 years. Periodically, all registered pesticides must undergo a review prior to being reregistered.
The reregistration process includes the development and submission of data meeting all of the EPA and PMRA requirements concerning the potential human health and environmental risk associated with the use of the preservatives and products treated with the preservatives. Typically, the development of all the required studies cost the registrant millions of dollars.
For preservatives used to treat utility poles, the studies include potential human health and environmental risk associated with production of the pole, risk to linemen from working on the poles, and risk to the general public and the environment from the normal use of the poles. EPA and PMRA makes its risk assessments using very conservative exposure scenarios and, if any unacceptable risk is identified, it simply does not reregister the preservative. Once a product is registered, it is required to go back through the registration process on a periodic basis to ensure that current science and new data continue to support use of the product.
This careful scrutiny by EPA and PRMA of the preservatives used to treat utility poles should ensure the general public that the use of treated wood poles is fully protective of human health and the environment.