Lab Journal

That’s Hot!

July 23, 2010 by Nelida

We mentioned before that the hottest spot in the neighborhood was the school. What we want to know now is “why?”

Most playgrounds are made of either metal or plastic. The problem with these materials is that as the sun hits them, they retain the heat. As the heat accumulates, the temperature of these playgrounds rises, usually to over 100° F.

The ground of the playground is also a problem. When we placed our thermometer at the ground of one of the playgrounds we are studying, the mercury rose up to 120° F. The material used for the ground is made up of recycled tires, which heat up fast and retain the heat. Playground safety advocate Geoff Croft explained that children can get burned in a matter of minutes on anything over 120° F.

It’s clear that this problem is common in several playgrounds in the U.S.. Just two months ago, an 18-month-old child in Iowa got severe second degree burns from playing in a slide. The slide was apparently more than 160° F!

Not only can you get severe burns, but being exposed in the sun for a long period of time is very harmful. 1 in 5 children will develop skin cancer throughout the course of their life and that number is still on the rise. It is also proven that most people get the majority of their sun exposure before the age of 18. Having shade in a playground area would help reduce the risk of developing cancer.

How do we solve this problem? Experts say that planting more trees around a playground can drastically reduce the amount of sunlight directly hitting the playground equipment. Another solution is building a canopy over a playground, such as this one. This provides shade, and allows children to play in a playground even when it’s raining.

We do not know yet what the city will do to solve this problem. What we do know is that we must act now to improve the quality of areas where children play.

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