Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Arsenic in Playgrounds

Why is arsenic in playgrounds?

Playgrounds are intended to be safe, healthy environments for children. To keep them this way, we need to be sure that playgrounds don't contain toxic materials. Children directly contact these materials as they play, and young children are likely to put their hands in their mouths and potentially ingest toxins.

Arsenic used to be added to pressure treated wood because it prevents the wood from decaying. In 2004, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, banned this use of arsenic in wood products. However, many schools and public parks have playgrounds that were build more than 10 years ago and may contain arsenic treated wood.

Why is it bad?

Most people know that arsenic is bad for you, but what exactly does it do? Arsenic is linked to several types of cancer, high blood pressure, endocrine-related illnesses, diabetes, and other health problems. Arsenic can also leach into the soil and water and harm the environment.

What can you do to help?

Ask your local schools if they have tested any old playground structures for toxins such as arsenic. If you have a play structure at your home, you can send a small chip of the wood to the Center for Environmental Health for testing.

If you take children to public parks with older play structures, and can't find out whether it has been tested, you can make sure they wash their hands before eating snacks or putting their hands near their mouths.

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