Readers Write: Port parents must protect kids from toxic poles


As the school year approaches, parents of students who walk to school along Port Washington Boulevard south of Campus Drive should be aware of the highly toxic chemical leaching from the new utility poles that have been installed on the sidewalks. 

The chemical leaching from the poles, pentachlorophenol (known as “penta”), has been banned in 26 countries because of its acute toxicity. 

Workers handling the poles are provided with special gloves to prevent any possible contact with the chemical. 

However, there is nothing to protect kids who may inadvertently touch or brush against the poles as they walk to and from school. 

Splinters from the poles can introduce the chemical directly into the bloodstream. 

Penta’s breakdown products and contaminants are ranked among the most potent cancer agents. 

An EPA draft review of penta found “extraordinary risks associated with typical exposure that a child might experience in communities across the United States that are dotted with pentachlorophenol-treated utility poles.” 

And last October, the National Toxicology Program of the National Institutes of Health released its new report on carcinogens and described penta as a chemical that increases risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in studies in humans and causes tumors in the liver and other organs in laboratory mice.  

So far, the utility company has declined requests to place warning signs on the poles, or to wrap them to prevent accidental exposure to pedestrians. 

Therefore, parents must make certain their children understand the dangers of the chemical, and try to change their child’s route to and from school to avoid the toxic poles if at all possible.


Doug Wood

Port Washington


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