Paint on playground equipment has been found to contain dangerously high levels of lead. The research found that play equipment contain lead up to 40 times than the recommended levels that may pose a significant risk to young children.
Researchers from Plymouth University tested the content of paints on play equipment at 50 parks in England. The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed lead among the top 10 chemicals of major public health concern.
Dr Andrew Turner said the levels were 'completely avoidable'. "While undisturbed and intact, coatings and their chemical components are relatively safe. But once the film begins to deteriorate through abrasion or via exposure to UV light and moisture, the paint begins to crack, flake and chalk and metal-bearing particulates are mobilized into the environment."
"You'd expect the older playgrounds to be more dangerous as people have become more aware of the dangers of lead, but our findings suggest that this isn't the case," said Dr Turner.
The presence of lead is more of a danger to children than adults. Ingestion of lead can cause neurological and cognitive problems. The study looked at play parks across Cornwall, Devon, Hampshire and Somerset.
Chemicals such as cadmium, which is also listed in WHO' s top 10 chemicals of concern were also found in playground paint. The study found the highest concentrations of lead in yellow or red paints.
"Parents should be vigilant and make sure their children wash their hands after playing on the equipment. Some children tend to experience the world through putting things in their mouth, so parents have to be on the lookout for that too," said Dr Turner.