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Levels of pollutants on the surfaces of children's playgrounds situated in public parks

Small children have been shown to be vulnerable to environmental contaminants, because of their developing nervous systems and small body size. Children may be exposed to environmental contaminants both indoors and outdoors. They are also more likely to ingestion of such pollutants because of the proximity to the pollutants to the surface, their hand-to-mouth behaviour and their tendency to eat soil. The aim of this study was to determine to which degree children may be exposed to pollutants in their outdoor playing areas. Most small children in urban areas spend their outdoor playing time in playgrounds situated in public parks. This study therefore investigated the level of pollutants in 50 playgrounds of public parks from two urban areas in south-east Queensland. The chemicals of interest were both heavy and light metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are known to be detrimental to human health. This is the first study of its kind in Queensland and the first to investigate both metals and PAHs in Australia.. All of the playgrounds investigated contained both metals and PAHs, but none of these exceeded threshold values as determined by the Queensland Department of Health. The highest concentrations of the chemicals were found in the finest particles contained in the playground covers. Moisture played an important role in limiting the concentration of chemicals. More moisture was generally associated with lower concentrations of chemicals. The natural background contributed most of the metals, while most of the PAHs derived from various types of vehicular emissions through atmospheric deposition. Exposure levels for small children were estimated using three different models for calculating the possible exposure equivalent to a recognised reference PAH compound. All estimated values were below threshold exposure levels as provided for under Queensland guidelines. The practice of covering the playground surfaces with fresh bark chips was found to limit the concentrations of metals in playground covers. It is recommended that the practice of covering playground surfaces with bark be continued, and that, further, these surfaces should regularly be sprayed with water, especially in dry areas.
Date January 2008
CreatorsMostert, Maria M. R.
PublisherQueensland University of Technology
Source SetsAustraliasian Digital Theses Program
Detected LanguageEnglish

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