October 1, 1996
Release # 97-001
(301) 504-0580 Ext. 1193
CPSC Finds Lead Poisoning Hazard for
Young Children on Public Playground Equipment
WASHINGTON, D.C. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC) today released the results of a report indicating that public playground
equipment could have chipping and peeling lead paint, which is a potential lead poisoning
hazard primarily for children six years old and younger.
Children six years old and younger could ingest lead by getting paint chips or dust on
their hands and then putting their hands in their mouths. Older children and adults are
less likely to be at risk because they generally do not exhibit this same behavior.
CPSC tested and analyzed paint from 26 playgrounds in 13 cities. Of those, 16 playgrounds
in 11 cities had levels of lead found in the paint on playground equipment that are high
enough to be recognized as a federal priority for lead hazard control measures.
In addition to collecting its own data, CPSC also received reports from local communities
of lead paint on 125 playgrounds in 11 additional cities. Several of these cities have
already begun addressing the lead paint hazard from their playgrounds.
While deteriorating lead paint in homes is the leading cause of lead poisoning in
children, the effects of ingesting lead are cumulative. Therefore, exposure to lead paint
from playground equipment can contribute to the lead poisoning hazard.
CPSC does not consider playground equipment with lead paint that is intact and in good
condition a hazard. However, paint will deteriorate from exposure to sunlight, heat,
moisture, and normal wear and tear to form chips and dust. If that paint contains lead, it
does present a hazard once it deteriorates.
The 1992 Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act sets 0.5 percent lead by weight
as the level of lead in paint that should be targeted for lead hazard control. In
accordance with this law, CPSC is recommending that local and state jurisdictions give
high priority to controlling the lead paint hazard from playground equipment with chipping
and peeling paint containing lead at or above the 0.5 percent level.
Lead poisoning in children is associated with behavioral problems, learning disabilities,
hearing problems, and stunted growth. CPSC found that in some of the paint chips from
playground equipment, the levels of lead were high enough that a child ingesting a paint
chip one-tenth of a square inch -- about the size that could fit on the tip of a pencil
eraser -- each day for about 15 to 30 days could have blood lead levels at or above the 10
microgram per deciliter amount considered dangerous for children especially those six
years old and younger.
In addition to its investigation of older playground equipment, CPSC is testing the paint
on recently manufactured equipment. CPSC is making sure that these products are in
compliance with the agency's requirements for painted playground equipment.
In the report released today, CPSC is providing information for cities and states to use
in addressing the lead hazard on playground equipment on a case-by-case basis.
CPSC recommends that individual cities take measures to address the lead hazard in
playgrounds based on a variety of factors. These factors include: condition of the paint;
percent of lead in the paint; age of the playground equipment; location, use and overall
safety of the equipment; the financial resources available to address this and other lead
paint hazards; the relative costs of control measures; and regulatory requirements
pertinent to the local or state jurisdictions.
If states, cities, or local communities suspect they may have playground equipment painted
with lead paint, CPSC recommends they test the equipment using an accredited laboratory.
CPSC does not recommend using lead test kits on playground equipment since CPSC, HUD, and
EPA have found these test kits unreliable.
Parents concerned about this hazard can look for deteriorating paint on playground
equipment. If they find deteriorating paint, they should contact the playground's owner or
local officials and ask them to test the paint. Parents should also make sure that
children do not put their hands in their mouths while playing on equipment with
deteriorating paint and wash their hands thoroughly afterward.
If your child's playground is found to have high levels of lead, community, city, state,
or school officials should take appropriate control measures. Parents who are concerned
about whether their child has lead poisoning should consult with the child's physician.
CPSC has no reports of children with lead poisoning from paint on playground equipment.
For questions about lead on playground equipment that are not about the status of
individual playgrounds, consumers can call CPSC's toll-free hotline at (800) 638-2772
Ext.274. To order this information from CPSC's fax-on-demand system, call (301) 504-0051
from the handset of a fax machine, and press 6005 when prompted to enter a document
The U.S. Consumer Product
Safety Commission protects the public from the unreasonable risk of injury or death from
15,000 types of consumer products under the agency's jurisdiction. To report a dangerous
product or a product-related injury and for information on CPSC's fax-on-demand service,
call CPSC's hotline at (800) 638-2772 or CPSC's teletypewriter at (800) 638-8270. To order
a press release through fax-on-demand, call (301) 504-0051 from the handset of your fax
machine and enter the release number. Consumers can report product hazards to firstname.lastname@example.org.