Playgrounds could pose danger on hot days

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — When temperatures creep close to the triple digits, many people stay inside to beat the heat. But it’s actually a health safety risk for those who can’t stay away from outdoor activity.

The high temperatures and sunny weather can cause heat exhaustion, but it can also leave children with serious burns from touching hot surfaces — especially at playgrounds.

10 On Your Side wanted to know how hot playground equipment can get, so we went down to the Kid’s Cove playground at Mt. Trashmore around 3 p.m. We used an infrared thermometer to measure the surface temperatures of various pieces of playground equipment.

We found different parts of a plastic red slide registered between 136° and 144°. The bouncy rubber floor covering was 156°, and the blacktop walkway was 140°. Metal bars, like for a jungle gym or monkey bars, ranged between 110° and 132°.

According to a fact sheet from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), “The weather does not have to be hot in order for equipment to heat up and cause burns. Even in mild weather, as long as the equipment or surfacing is in direct sunlight for an extended period of time, there is a risk of sustaining a thermal burn injury. In fact, one reported incident occurred on a 74° F day and resulted in a child receiving serious second‐degree burns from a plastic slide.”

Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation does not close parks on hot days, but they do expect parents to use good judgement. Dr. Heidi Kulberg, with the Virginia Beach Public Health Department, explained why parents can’t always expect their children to know when a surface at a playground is too hot.

“They can get so caught up in the moment, they’re not taking in all the sensory information they’re given and are maybe not making the best decision for their health because they just want to have fun,” Kulberg said.

She also said parents should touch the playground materials themselves first.

“I recommend that the parent or adult go over and just touch the equipment. If it’s hot to your hand, it’s going to be hot to their skin too, and obviously that’s not something you want them spending a lot of time on,” she said.

According to the CPSC fact sheet on playground burn safety, the organization has record of about 30 thermal burn incidents between 2001 and 2008. “Of those incidents, 10 were associated with plastic, rubber or other nonmetal surfaces, and seven were associated with metal surfaces.”

Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation does offer alternatives to the playground. A spokeswoman for the department, Julie Braley, sent us this info:

We have six recreation centers located around the city with indoor pools. It’s only $86 per year for residents to join, or day passes are available for $8 (adult) and $6 (child). The Williams Farm Center has an awesome spray-ground that offers some outdoor water fun as well! In July, we’re celebrating National Parks & Rec Month and will have $1 day passes for “Throwback Thursdays.” More info about that at www.vbgov.com/july.

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