Over the weekend, states from Oklahoma to Arizona to California saw record-breaking temperatures. For children on the playground, these temperatures can spell danger. Playground equipment can get much hotter than the outside temperature.
Last summer, a 3-year-old in Utah suffered second-degree burns on her legs after going down a plastic slide on a playground. The temperature outside was in the mid-90s. Journalists from the local newspaper went out to investigate the surface temperature of the slide during the hot afternoons and found that the blue plastic slides could reach temperature between 155º F to almost 200º F when the outside temperature was in the triple digits. Skin begins to burn at about 111º F.
The Utah newspaper investigators found that the color of the plastic slides made a difference on their surface temperature. Yellow slides were cooler than blue slides. Beige and red slides were cooler than the blue slides, and dark green slides measured similar temperatures to the blue slides.
City officials responded to the injury by noting that if they had the chance to build the playground again, they would have taken color and shade structures into consideration.
The Utah playground is not alone. Playgrounds across the world have caused serious burns to unwary children. Children have slower reaction times than adults, and can suffer serious injuries when they do not quickly withdraw contact from hot surfaces. Children 3 and under are most at risk for playground burns because they have the slowest reaction times.
Slides are not the only part of the playground that is quick to absorb heat. A 2015 study of the rubber surface underneath many playgrounds in Texas found that the surface could reach 188º F in the sun, or 166º F in the shade, both hotter than a cup of coffee. The temperature outside during the study was about 106º F.
Follow these tips to protect your children at the playground:
- Touch the playground surfaces before you let your kids—one type of equipment can have different temperatures (the temperature of slides will vary on their color, darker colors get hotter). If the surface is hot to the touch of an adult’s hand, it is too hot for a child to use.
- Make sure children wear shoes on the playground. The black rubber mat under the playground can reach higher temperatures than any of the equipment.
- Do not assume that the equipment will be the same temperature as the outside air. Playground equipment can reach much higher temperatures than the outside temperature.
- Check the heat coating. Plastic playground equipment often has protective heat coating, but this coating can wear off.
- Look for a playground with shade structures or tree coverage. Not all playgrounds need constant shade coverage, but many could use them during the hot summer months.
If your child has suffered a serious burn injury caused by contact with dangerously hot playground equipment, call our office today to schedule a free consultation.