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Steps to protect children from poisoned playground

Steps to protect children from poisoned playgrounds

Green Party Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley is calling on all local councils around New Zealand to immediately adopt a series of simple steps to protect children in playgrounds built from CCA-treated timber.

Recent United States research has shown the health of children, in particular, is at risk if they handle or come into contact with timber treated with chromated copper arsenate, including in playgrounds. The research shows that the health risks include cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, anaemia and skin lesions.

"We know there is a risk, so it is essential that all councils take these steps to reassure parents and to minimise the risks to children of harm from exposure to CCA-treated timber," Ms Kedgley said.

Ms Kedgley also urged the Ministry of Health's public health directorate to take a lead on the whole CCA timber issue, including ensuring that all councils take the following steps.

Ms Kedgley proposes all local councils in New Zealand should immediately:
· Begin a programme of sampling the soil in at-risk playgrounds, to test arsenic and chromium levels. At-risk playgrounds include those where there are substantial amounts of CCA-treated timber, and no sealing or covering over the soil.
· Place warning signs at all playgrounds that are built from CCA timber and/or have been found to have dangerous levels of arsenic and/or chromium in the soil, notifying parents and caregivers that:
· The timber is treated with CCA, which can cause serious illness.
· Dangerous levels of arsenic and/or chromium have been found in the soil (where they have) or may exist in the soil (where testing of at-risk playgrounds has not yet occurred).
· Children should not ingest the soil.
· Children should wash their hands thoroughly, especially before eating food.
· Also noting any measures taken to reduce the risk, for example, rubber matting.
· Place rubber matting, or some other barrier, over exposed soil in the affected playgrounds.
· Apply a coating to all exposed CCA timber on a six-monthly basis (as recommended by the US EPA).
· Stop the use of CCA timber in new playground equipment or the repair of older equipment.

In the longer term, Ms Kedgley proposes local authorities around New Zealand should:
· Investigate non-toxic alternatives to the use of CCA timber in playground equipment (for example, more durable timber species, less toxic treatment of wood, non-wood products).
· Begin a programme of replacement of CCA timber in at-risk playgrounds.
· Begin removing toxic soil from playgrounds where tests show dangerous arsenic and/or chromium levels, and where there are no safe methods of sealing it in the ground.

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