Chromated copper arsenate

Chromated copper arsenate (CCA) is a wood preservative that has been used for timber treatment since the mid-1930s. It is a mix of chromium, copper and arsenic (as Copper(II) arsenate) formulated as oxides or salts, and is recognizable for the greenish tint it imparts to timber. CCA was invented in 1933 by Dr. Sonti Kamesam, an Indian scientist, and was awarded its first patent (British) in 1934.

CCA is known by many trade names and is the world’s most widely used wood preservative. It is manufactured to national and international standards depending on the country of intended use, including AWPA P23-10 for the USA and SANS 673 for South Africa, and each manufacturer needs to comply with these standards.

Mechanism of action

The chromium acts as a chemical fixing agent and has little or no preserving properties; it helps the other chemicals to fix in the timber, binding them through chemical complexes to the wood’s cellulose and lignin. The copper acts primarily to protect the wood against decay, fungi, and bacteria, while the arsenic is the main insecticidal component of CCA, providing protection from wood attacking insects including termites and marine borers. It also improves the weather-resistance of treated timber and may assist paint adherence in the long term.