Elevated Lead Levels Found At Four County Playgrounds

Galway Park
Photo courtesy Montgomery Parks

Montgomery Parks temporarily has closed four neighborhood playgrounds due to elevated lead levels in the rubber material that is laid on the ground to reduce the possibility of serious injuries should a child fall from the equipment.

Calvertown-Galway Local Park in Silver Spring, Countryside Neighborhood Park in Fairland, Fairland Regional Park in Fairland and Fox Chapel Neighborhood Park in Germantown were closed following the results of a test to assess lead levels in rubberized surfaces, according to Montgomery Parks, which is a part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

The four parks are expected to reopen by the end of this month.

Lead level tests were conducted at 24 of the department’s 276 playgrounds that contain rubber surfacing.

Surface testing at all 24 of the playgrounds showed acceptable levels. However, when bulk samples were taken from areas where the surface level had been worn away, higher levels were found at the four parks, which were then closed on March 25, according to Montgomery Parks.

According to its news release, “the risk of lead exposure at these playgrounds is low.”

All rubber surfaces currently are being removed at Calverton-Galway Local Park and Fox Chapel Neighborhood Park. Repairs are being made at the other two parks.

“The safety of our park patrons is always a top priority for the parks department. We decided to proactively test our playgrounds with rubber surfacing when we learned that testing in nearby jurisdictions showed elevated lead levels,” said Mike Riley, director of Montgomery Parks.

“Since the primary risk of lead exposure to children comes from touching contaminated surfaces and ingesting contaminated material, including dust, the risk of any exposure to lead from rubber surfacing at our playgrounds is very low,” Riley said.

The tests were conducted in February by an outside contractor. Dust wipe samples were made at the 24 playgrounds. This dust on the surface can be transferred to children’s hands and clothing.

Montgomery Parks uses U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for lead on interior floors, which is 10 micrograms per square foot of lead for dust wipe samples.

The rubber bulk samples were tested and compared to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for lead in bare soil in children’s play areas, 400 parts per million (ppm). The four playgrounds currently undergoing repairs had initial results above 400 ppm, but when the sites were re-tested all were well below the 400-ppm level, according to the news release.

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Suzanne Pollak

About Suzanne Pollak

Suzanne is a freelance reporter with Montgomery Community Media. She has over 35 years professional experience writing for newspapers, magazines, non-profit newsletters and the web.

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