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Infection Control

Are playgrounds making children sick?

September 19, 2010
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When thinking of unsanitary places, public restrooms, port-o-potties, and high traffic public areas come to mind.

However, according to a hygiene surface test conducted by the International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 44 percent of playground surfaces tested positive for urine, feces, mucus, saliva, and other blood-borne pathogens.

Only 25 percent of public restrooms tested positive.

Unbeknownst to many, playground equipment was the No. 1 contaminated surface.

The dark side of fun
Playgrounds are a wonderful experience for children to have while growing up.

Children learn and develop from socially interacting and facing the physical challenges that playgrounds have to offer.

However, whether it’s in your neighborhood, school, church, town park, fast food restaurant, or even in your backyard, your child might be at risk for becoming ill from something as innocent as playing on a playground.

We often overlook the importance of the sanitation, cleaning, and upkeep of equipment such as playgrounds, picnic tables, handrails, etc.

Many assume that rain and the sun’s UV rays will take care of most of the cleaning.

Exposure to environmental elements can spread these germs to a new location on the equipment, not to mention the damage the sun does to the lifespan of a playground’s plastic.

Safeguard play areas
In order to truly sanitize, clean, and disinfect your playgrounds, you must make sure that your cleaning products contain an anti-bacterial, mildew-stat, and fungicide to guarantee true cleanliness.

With outdoor playgrounds, we must be environmentally conscious when choosing cleaning products.

Many playgrounds are located in natural areas within parks.

What many people do not realize is that in order for a cleaning product to work effectively and kill dangerous bacteria and disease, it is impossible for cleaning products to be completely “green.”

Try to pick products that have been EPA-approved and are “environmentally friendly” so that they are safe for children as well as the environment.

Another common method of cleaning is just by using a household bleach solution.

However, it can leave a residue, strong odor, and potentially damage clothing.

The smell of bleach is distinctive and in high concentrations can cause respiratory issues if inhaled in confined areas.

You want to use a disinfectant that is not so potent in smell so that children cannot play safely.

Don’t ruin good times
When cleaning your playground, you really want to make sure that you do not use the wrong product on the wrong component because that can potentially damage your playground.

Most products are not safe to use on plastic because plastic is very porous and the product can seep into it, creating mildew and mold.

Once this happens, there is no way to undo the damage that has been done.

A degreaser will immediately cloud a Plexiglas window and fade plastics.

If the degreaser is not properly wiped up, children may touch it and then stick their hands in their mouth, which is not safe.

Non-tested and unapproved products should not be used where children can come in contact with them.

Pressure washing can damage the playground equipment as well.

Paint can come off, ties will be broken, padding can be destroyed, and you are forcing dirt into the unit.

The only way to truly clean a playground is by hand using appropriate products.

Over time, the appearance of playgrounds can diminish due to use and the environment.

In order to protect playground surfaces, special playground polishes have been developed and should be used to preserve their color and appearance.

Playground polishes have anti-static and sun-resistant components that help protect playgrounds from harmful UV rays.

Not only do they make the playground look better with its shine, but they help save money in the long run by not having to replace old, worn parts.

Children of all ages enjoy playing in play areas in fast food restaurant chains.

It is common sense to never let your child eat and play in a playground because of the importance of hand-washing before eating.

This becomes an enormous health hazard to children.

Most parents don’t even think of all of the potential germs that their children have been exposed to in such a short period of time.

There are no regulatory agencies that monitor the conditions of these playgrounds.

With no regulations, these playgrounds are only cleaned at the restaurant’s discretion.

This is where playground products come into play.

It is wise for companies to invest in playground cleaning supplies to clean and maintain the facilities they own in order to promote general health.

With the majority of children being involved in schools, camps, or day care centers during their childhood, a large
percentage of children are exposed to playground equipment.

Playgrounds are a key tool in the development of children, so we must make sure that they are as safe as possible.

As the dangers of unsanitary conditions become increasingly well-known, playground cleaning supplies have become more and more vital to ensure the safety of our children.



Jenna Gaillard works for Good Clean Fun, a premier playground maintenance company in Cornelius, NC. GCF has developed its own product line, Good Clean Fun Products that provides a packaged, playground cleaning kit. The kit contains a disinfectant Plexiglas cleaner, polish, and heavy-duty cleaner. For more information, visit www.goodcleanfunproducts.com.
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