Heat Waves Can Cause Playground Skin Scalders

By Samantha Kramer, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
June 27, 2012; 9:17 PM
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Photo courtesy of Photos.com

With this week reaching extreme temperatures in the mid-90s across the Northeast, parents worry about the usual cautions for their kids: making sure they get enough water, putting on plenty of sunscreen, or wearing cool, light clothing.

But one thing many parents don't realize as a danger is one of their children's favorite places: playgrounds.

Even in 80-degree temperatures, if a plastic or metal slide is sitting in the sun, it can reach up to 160 degrees F.

And though it may seem obvious on hot summer days, it's something that most parents don't even think about, said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates.

"A lot of [New York's] parks have warning signs, but 99 percent of people don't read them," Croft said. "A two-year-old doesn't adhere to a warning sign."

AccuWeather.com investigated a nearby playground in State College, Pa., and found that a light-colored, plastic slide had reached 142 degrees, while a black plastic swing heated up to 156 degrees -- two degrees short of being able to fry an egg.

Metal equipment commonly found in older playgrounds can get even hotter and cause more serious burns, Croft said.

A first-degree burn can occur in approximately 3 seconds when touching an object over 140 degrees. Croft said that New York City's burn center sees about 12 kids on average each year injured from overheated playground equipment, and that's not including the number of children treated in hospitals, private doctors or at home.

Another common thing most people don't watch out for are artificial turf fields. Croft said he recorded the temperature of the turf on Thursday when New York saw outside temperatures around 94 degrees. The turf, however, had reached 170 degrees.

"These make up the baseball fields, soccer fields that kids play on for hours, and those kind of temperatures increase the risk of heat stroke," Croft said.

New York State Assemblyman Micah Kellner introduced a bill in April 2011 requiring the use of a temperature test on all playground equipment installed in New York City.

"It is unconscionable that this equipment is still apparently not being temperature-tested," Kellner wrote in an address to the public regarding the Playground Equipment Safety Act. "It's time to make this basic safety standard a requirement."

The fact that the bill is currently stalled is especially disappointing when New York sees hot days like this week's, Croft said. The Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Society of Testing Materials, which many states follow as standard regulations for playground safety, do not require heat testing for playgrounds.

In the meantime, Croft said parents should use caution when taking their kids to playgrounds on hot, sunny days.

"Don't use playgrounds if they're not shaded, and parents should do a touch-test with their hands before letting their kids use the equipment," he advised.

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