CPSC Finds Lead Poisoning Hazard for Young Children on Public Playground Equipment

October 01, 1996
Release Number: 97001

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) today released the results of a report indicating that public playground equipment could have chipping and peeling lead paint, which is a potential lead poisoning hazard primarily for children six years old and younger.

Children six years old and younger could ingest lead by getting paint chips or dust on their hands and then putting their hands in their mouths. Older children and adults are less likely to be at risk because they generally do not exhibit this same behavior.

CPSC tested and analyzed paint from 26 playgrounds in 13 cities. Of those, 16 playgrounds in 11 cities had levels of lead found in the paint on playground equipment that are high enough to be recognized as a federal priority for lead hazard control measures.

In addition to collecting its own data, CPSC also received reports from local communities of lead paint on 125 playgrounds in 11 additional cities. Several of these cities have already begun addressing the lead paint hazard from their playgrounds.

While deteriorating lead paint in homes is the leading cause of lead poisoning in children, the effects of ingesting lead are cumulative. Therefore, exposure to lead paint from playground equipment can contribute to the lead poisoning hazard.

CPSC does not consider playground equipment with lead paint that is intact and in good condition a hazard. However, paint will deteriorate from exposure to sunlight, heat, moisture, and normal wear and tear to form chips and dust. If that paint contains lead, it does present a hazard once it deteriorates.

The 1992 Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act sets 0.5 percent lead by weight as the level of lead in paint that should be targeted for lead hazard control. In accordance with this law, CPSC is recommending that local and state jurisdictions give high priority to controlling the lead paint hazard from playground equipment with chipping and peeling paint containing lead at or above the 0.5 percent level.

Lead poisoning in children is associated with behavioral problems, learning disabilities, hearing problems, and stunted growth. CPSC found that in some of the paint chips from playground equipment, the levels of lead were high enough that a child ingesting a paint chip one-tenth of a square inch -- about the size that could fit on the tip of a pencil eraser -- each day for about 15 to 30 days could have blood lead levels at or above the 10 microgram per deciliter amount considered dangerous for children especially those six years old and younger.

In addition to its investigation of older playground equipment, CPSC is testing the paint on recently manufactured equipment. CPSC is making sure that these products are in compliance with the agency's requirements for painted playground equipment.

In the report released today, CPSC is providing information for cities and states to use in addressing the lead hazard on playground equipment on a case-by-case basis.

CPSC recommends that individual cities take measures to address the lead hazard in playgrounds based on a variety of factors. These factors include: condition of the paint; percent of lead in the paint; age of the playground equipment; location, use and overall safety of the equipment; the financial resources available to address this and other lead paint hazards; the relative costs of control measures; and regulatory requirements pertinent to the local or state jurisdictions.

If states, cities, or local communities suspect they may have playground equipment painted with lead paint, CPSC recommends they test the equipment using an accredited laboratory. CPSC does not recommend using lead test kits on playground equipment since CPSC, HUD, and EPA have found these test kits unreliable.

Parents concerned about this hazard can look for deteriorating paint on playground equipment. If they find deteriorating paint, they should contact the playground's owner or local officials and ask them to test the paint. Parents should also make sure that children do not put their hands in their mouths while playing on equipment with deteriorating paint and wash their hands thoroughly afterward.

If your child's playground is found to have high levels of lead, community, city, state, or school officials should take appropriate control measures. Parents who are concerned about whether their child has lead poisoning should consult with the child's physician. CPSC has no reports of children with lead poisoning from paint on playground equipment.

For questions about lead on playground equipment that are not about the status of individual playgrounds, consumers can call CPSC's toll-free hotline at (800) 638-2772 Ext.274.