On a rare, balmy, early March day, one might expect the playground next to Riverdale Elementary School in Maryland to be filled with kids crawling all over the equipment. Instead it’s off-limits and will be for a while.
“The poured in-place rubber matting, that is the concern,” Angel Waldron, spokesperson for Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation, said.
That material started showing up on playgrounds because it provided a softer surface. When kids take their inevitable falls, it’s a lot better than asphalt.
However, the material’s lead content, “some higher levels than the EPA standard,” is the problem in this case, according to Waldron.
It’s a particular part of the surface that authorities are concerned about, not the whole playground. Officials also said the real danger comes if it’s ingested.
For the past few months, the county has been testing all of its 54 playgrounds. This was the only one with a lead problem.
“Just to be sure, we bolted the gates, we put up signage that it's closed for maintenance,” Waldron said.
Many local playgrounds have been closed since early in the pandemic, out of concern about the virus spreading through contact surfaces. That will give the parks and recreation department time to rebuild the playground entirely with a different surface -- wood fiber.
The rebuild is expected to take several months.