Playground Surfacing: Choosing Safer Materials for Children’s Health and the Environment

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Playground surfacing helps to protect children as they walk, run, jump, fall, and interact with their surroundings in the course of play. A range of materials are sold as playground surfacing. Some of these materials contain chemicals of concern for human health and the environment. In response to requests from communities, TURI has compiled information on a range of playground surfacing options, with a particular focus on chemicals that may be found in these materials, and how they may affect playground users.

From an environmental and human health standpoint, wood products that have been tested and found to be free of chemicals, such as chromated copper arsenate, are safer choices of materials to be used on playgrounds. Synthetic materials, including those made with waste tires, pose potential chemical hazards to playground users and the environment.

We found that chemical contents and installation designs varied widely between material brands. Playground planners are encouraged to carefully review material details and ask the manufacturer the following questions in order to make well informed choices:

  • What are the chemical constituents of all layers of material?
  • What tests have been conducted to check for chemicals in material?
  • What method of disposal is used for the materials when it is time to replace them
  • Are the materials permeable? What are the drainage options for the surfacing
  • What critical fall height protection can be achieved with the material?
  • Can the installation company test fall protection performance annually?
  • What is the surface temperature of the material located in the sun with air temperature above 90° F
  • What is the lifespan of the materials and cost of maintenance?



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