The following letter has been sent to Mayor Bowser and the DC City Council by DC Safe Healthy Playing Fields regarding high lead levels on the Janney Elementary poured in place (PIP) playground. This Q and A document will help explain some facts and background about this issue.
Re: High Lead Levels on Janney Elementary Playground sent 5/2/19
Dear Mayor Bowser and DC City Council,
High concentrations of lead have been found at Janney Elementary School. Multiple samples from a rubberized poured in place (PIP) playground at Janney Elementary School tested positive for high concentrations of lead. These elevated lead levels should result in the immediate closure of the Janney PIP.
This same PIP material is present in playgrounds throughout the District. It is possible that some or all of these other locations also have dangerously high lead levels that put our city’s children at risk.
This type of PIP surface is a non-uniform material: a low finding for lead in one area or sample does not necessarily extend to the rest of the surface. Each playground must be tested in multiple locations using a protocol that tests individual pieces, rather than averaging a sample.
Of the many problems with PIP playground surfacing, we will also highlight these two additional concerns:
(1) Playground surfaces that fail to meet ASTM standards for impact attention may not protect children in the event of a fall. The District has failed to answer our repeated questions about testing results and upcoming testing dates.
(2) Heat issues – PIP surfaces can get dangerously hot and present burn and health risks for children. We have been raising this issue for two years, and there is still no monitoring of surface temperatures at schools during recess.
We have attached our open letter sent to you in July, 2018, which also links to the policy recommendations we made in January, 2018, which included the recommendation to test for lead.
We are calling on you to take swift and decisive action to protect District children. What actions will you be taking immediately at Janney Elementary? Will you be posting warnings and notifying District residents about potential lead and potential impact attenuation failure at other PIP playgrounds in the District?
DC Safe Healthy Playing Fields
Thank you to DCSHPF and the Ecology Center for conducting these tests and getting word out to parents, decision makers and officials that the playground surfaces in their communities could be exposing their children to a neurotoxic metal. We hope that this example can create awareness so that safer alternatives can be chosen when installing playgrounds and fields.
This is one of many reasons why Non Toxic Communities supports using only engineered wood fiber (EWF) and natural grass for children's playing surfaces.