Study urges playground paint monitoring

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Old paint on playground equipment can be a danger to children

Children’s playground safety can be improved if more frequent checks on paint toxins are undertaken, a new report is recommending.

Plymouth University wants urgent action taken after finding lead content in equipment that is 40 times over the recommended concentration levels.

The environmental scientists believe such metallic content levels could present a substantial threat to a child’s health.

It wants playground operators to monitor lead levels and other playground equipment conditions, such as cracking and flaking paint; impress upon parents the risks involved in children swallowing paint chips or biting or sucking painted surfaces; and to remove paint in bad condition with care before stabilizing equipment and either re-painting it with non-lead paint or replacing it altogether.

It is also calling for tighter controls on playground paint, whether from home or overseas markets, and pre-painted apparatus to be fitted.

Dangerous substances in play areas

The recommendations come after higher than anticipated rates of dangerous substances
such as cadmium, antimony and chromium were found, despite the fact that some of the playgrounds studied in southern England were under 10 years old.

Research leader Andrew Turner says painted playground equipment is “relatively safe” when intact and undisturbed. Their chemical components and coatings only really become a danger once the equipment’s film starts to wear.

This can be through paint cracking, chalking and flaking, exposure to moisture and UV light, or through abrasions, Dr. Turner adds.

Paint checks key to child safety

Plymouth University’s conclusion that paint checks are vital to child safety are an extension of legislation laid down by a European Commission (EC) Directive 39 years ago.

This required all paints with high lead content to have clear warning labels that they should not be put on surfaces where children are likely to suck or chew. The directive applied to paints which contain 5,000 plus parts per million of lead.

Advice since then across countries including Britain recommends that this proportion decreases to under 2,500.

Dr. Turner says the dangers to human health from lead are well known. These apply to exposure to paint in both domestic and urban environments and can include children’s brain development, he says.

Source: Plymouth University

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Date Published: February 8, 2016

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