Playground Equipment Contains Dangerous Levels of Lead: IPEN Studies

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By International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), February 27, 2020

Children’s playgrounds in Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines and Thailand commonly contain painted equipment with lead levels above 90 ppm, the recommended limit by UN Environment Program (UNEP). Organizations in each country studied playground equipment as part of their participation in the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), a group of NGOs working to prevent toxic chemicals from harming human health and the environment.

Even more dangerous for children’s health, playgrounds in three of those countries – Malaysia, Mexico and the Philippines – contain levels of lead exceeding 100,000 ppm, and in Thailand, playgrounds were found with lead levels exceeding 10,000 ppm. Yellow-painted equipment and red monkey bars had the highest levels detected.

IPEN announced the findings during International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week in October 2019, and noted the need for strong bans on lead paint that would include all types of paint, not only decorative.

Manny Calonzo, IPEN Advisor, explained that “coatings on equipment inevitably flake and chip from weathering and regular wear and tear, become mixed in the sand and dirt, and put children at risk of life-long impairment from ingestion through normal hand to mouth behavior.” IPEN notes that safe and affordable alternatives to lead additives are widely available, and paint companies can obtain third-party certification through Lead Safe Paint. 

Sara Brosché, IPEN, adds that “leaded industrial paint for outdoor equipment and streets contain some of the highest levels of lead and are serious and preventable health threats to children….  Governments must act now to adopt strong regulatory controls to ban lead paint and improve life chances of children in their countries.”

IPEN’s global lead paint elimination campaign is working with the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and other partners in the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint. [IPEN press release]