May 22, 2010

Arsenic In Playgrounds Nothing To Worry About

Pressure treated wooden playground structures don't live up to bad reputation

Pressure treated wooden playground structures do not live up to the bad reputation they have earned as being harmful to children, findings of a new University of Alberta study have discovered.

Chromated copper arsenate-treated wood became the center of attention in the late 1990s when it was said that arsenic levels in this wood are harmful to children. Around 70 percent of playgrounds in North America are said to be made with this pressure-treated wood. This treated wood can also be found in many homes in North America.

"The amount of arsenic exposure due to playing on a pressure treated wood playground is a fraction of all other sources of exposure," said Chris Le, scientist in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry.

The study compared arsenic levels in urine and saliva samples of children playing in eight CCA-treated wooden playgrounds and eight playgrounds made from other materials. High levels of arsenic are believed to lead to a number of different types of cancers including skin, lung and bladder cancers.

"There is no significant difference in the concentration of arsenic species between the samples from the two groups of children," said Le. "Contact with CCA playgrounds is not likely to significantly contribute to the overall arsenic exposure in children."

His group also swabbed the hands of children. There were traces of arsenic on their hands but it can easily be washed off with soap and water. Le suggests rather than demolish playgrounds and re-build them, wash stations should be installed and available to kids and parents at the playground.

"Washing hands would reduce their exposure to toxicants and microbial contaminants as well," said Le.

This low arsenic level in playgrounds is good news to parents planning to begin the summer ritual of taking their children to the local playground.

"It is more important for children to be physically active, which includes playing in playgrounds," said Le.

By Quinn Phillips, University of Alberta


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