Wood preservation: stopping termite destruction and making safer wood preservatives

Papers in this symposium are only embargoed until date and time of presentation.

Treasured wooden structures throughout the United States are being destroyed by wood-eating organisms, including shipworms, termites and fungi. From historic buildings in New Orleans' French Quarter to wooden piers and boats in the harbors of New York, Boston and San Diego, wood-eating organisms have waged a relentless attack resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars of structural damage and lost revenue.

Researchers are gaining new insights into these wood-eating pests and developing promising new methods to minimize or eliminate their threats. These and other studies concerning the chemistry of wood degradation and preservation will be the focus of a two-day symposium April 4-5 at the 221st national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. Selected studies are described below.

Controlling the destructive shipworm - Shipworms, also known as termites of the sea, are destroying wooden structures in harbors throughout the world. Efforts to curb the appetite of the worm-like creatures have often failed. New approaches may provide a way to stop them:

• Dan Distel, Ph.D., of the University of Maine, is studying the bacteria that live inside shipworms and are responsible for the wood degradation they cause. A recent discovery that these populations contain several different bacterial species that must be transmitted from one generation of shipworm to the next may provide clues to slowing the reproduction of shipworms, thereby delaying or preventing damage to wood. (The paper on this research, CELL 88, will be presented at 9:30 a.m., Wednesday, April 4, in the San Diego Convention Center, Room 11A.)

Exploring the secret lives of termites - Researchers will discuss new insights into the little known feeding and nesting habits of the infamous Formosan subterrane

Contact: Charmayne Marsh
American Chemical Society

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