Lead in Playground Equipment in Thailand
IPEN & EARTH, October 2019
Children are exposed to lead from paint when surfaces painted with lead-containing paint begins to chip or deteriorate, since this causes lead to be released to dust and soil. This is then ingested through normal hand-to-mouth behavior by children.They might also pick up paint chips and put them directly into their mouths, which can be especially harmful since the lead content is typically much higher than what is found in dust and soils. When toys, play equipment, or other articles are painted with lead paint, children may directly ingest the lead-contaminated, dried paint when chewing on them. Playground equipment can also be a direct source of exposure since children will get lead paint on their hands when playing.
Lead exposure is especially harmful to children, especially aged six and under. Once lead enters a child’s body through ingestion, inhalation, or across the placenta, it has the potential to damage several biological systems and pathways. The primary target is the central nervous system and the brain, but lead can also affect the blood system, the kidneys, and the skeleton. Lead is also categorized as an endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC).
According to the World Health Organization (WHO): “There is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects.”
On 30 September 2019, EARTH visited Benjakitti Park and Lumphini Park located in Bangkok City, Thailand, and screened the playground equipment for lead content. In each playground, painted play equipment (e.g., climbing bars and frames, posts, railings, ramps, rockers, see-saws, slides, swings, etc.) were examined and physical details, e.g., color of painted surface, substrate type (metallic, wooden, plastic, fiberglass, etc.), and the condition of painted surface (new, old, visible chipping off or flaking) were documented.
In situ lead content analysis was performed on painted surfaces using a portable Olympus Innov-X Delta X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer. For a complete description of the materials and methods, please see Appendix A.
This study shows that:
- 20 out of 24 analyzed pieces of playground equipment contained total lead concentrations above 90 parts per million (ppm), dry weight. In addition, 14 analyzed pieces of playground equipment contained dangerously high lead levels above 10,000 ppm.
- 15 out of 16 bright-colored painted surfaces contained lead concentrations above 90 ppm, dry weight.
- The highest lead concentration detected was 72,300 ppm in a red monkey bar at a public playground in Benjakitti Park, Bangkok City, Thailand.