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Schumer Highlights Concern That The Toxic Chemical, Pentachlorophenol, Is Being Used to Treat New Wooden National Grid Utility Poles & Could Potentially Leach Into Groundwater Over Long Term As Poles Deteriorate; Studies Suggest Penta Can Result in Neurological & Issues With Respiratory Tract, Kidney, Immune System & More 

Schumer Calls on National Grid to Immediately Suspend Use of Chemical on Utility Poles Until EPA Investigation into Safety Is Complete  
Senator Says Penta Poles Can Be Found in Parks, Outside Schools & Nearby Local Businesses

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged National Grid to immediately suspend further use of penta-treated utility poles until the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completes a pending study. National Grid has been installing new, penta-chemically-treated utility poles throughout Central New York. Schumer noted serious concern that treating the poles with such a toxic chemical could potentially cause health risks to utility workers, adults and children and could leach into ground water over the long-term as the poles deteriorate. The EPA, which is the authority for health and environmental risk of such chemicals, has noted public health concerns related to the chemical when ingested or inhaled, like neurological, respiratory, kidney and immune system concerns.

Today, Schumer said that the penta-treated telephone and electrical poles can be found in populated areas like yards, parks, outside schools and around local businesses, and urged that National Grid suspend the use of this chemical in utility poles until the EPA investigation proves this chemical, used this way, is safe.
“There’s no debate that 'penta' is a highly toxic chemical, and as such it should be nowhere near playgrounds or our drinking water. That is why National Grid should exercise all due caution and suspend use of these poles until the federal Environmental Protection Agency completes its study of this chemical,” said Senator Schumer. 

“The City of Syracuse has a longstanding commitment to our environment and the health of our residents and these chemically treated poles which could harm our citizens are not consistent with our goals,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner. “I strongly encourage the EPA to thoroughly investigate this practice and I appreciate Senator Schumer’s willingness to take on this issue.”

“These toxic poles are a serious threat to our children and do not belong anywhere near a residential area,” said Gabrielle Garland, a resident of Clay and concerned mother. “I thank Senator Schumer for stepping up to the plate on this. His advocacy is needed to hold National Grid accountable.”

The wood preservative known as pentachlorphenol, or “penta,” is used to treat wooden utility poles throughout Central New York and across the country to help prevent decay. According to the EPA, short-term ingestion and inhalation of penta is extremely toxic to humans and is a “probable” human carcinogen.  Short-term inhalation of penta can result in issues with the respiratory tract, blood, kidney, liver, immune system, eyes, nose, skin as well as neurological issues. Penta is banned or severely restricted in 33 countries, but not the United States. In October, the Stolkholm Convent discussed pushing a worldwide ban on penta.

Currently, Penta is used on approximately 55 percent of 166 million wooden utility poles in the United States. Meanwhile, twenty six countries including Canada, currently ban pentachlorophenol completely.

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the National Grid appears below:

Mr. Ken Daly
Senior Vice President, National Grid

Dear Mr. Daily,

I write to urge National Grid to cease its installation and use of Penta-treated utility poles until the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) completes its investigation into the potential health effects of Penta. There are significant concerns, which I share, that utility poles treated with the chemical Penthachlorophenol (Penta) may pose public health, environmental and safety risks.

Penta is already banned or severely restricted in 26 other countries. Recent studies have revealed that short-term inhalation of penta can result in issues with the respiratory tract, blood, kidney, liver, immune system, eyes, nose, skin, and neurological issues. Because of the health ailments suspected to be associated with exposure to Penta, the EPA has launched a special review of the health and safety effects of this pesticide. This special review is ongoing, and has been in process since December of 2014. Therefore, I urge National Grid to refrain from further installation of penta-treated utility poles until the EPA completes its review.

Utility poles treated with penta are found in communities throughout Central New York. These poles are found in parks, outside schools, and in close proximity to business districts, which increases the likelihood of exposure to Penta. It is imperative that National Grid allows the Environmental Protection Agency to determine the impacts of Penta conclusively before continuing to use this potentially toxic chemical on its utility poles.

Thank you for your attention to this request. Please contact my office if I can be of assistance in this matter.


Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator