- June 11 -- Dangerous conditions in a majority of public
playgrounds still pose hidden threats to our nation's youngsters, according to a fourth
nationwide survey of 760 playgrounds in 24 states and Washington, DC released today by
Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). CFA
also released an updated comprehensive model law, a revised "Parent Checklist,"
for playground safety and a new
home play equipment factsheet.
"Parents still need to be wary about their local playgrounds," said Mary Ellen
Fise, CFA Product Safety Director and co-author of the new playground documents. "We
easily located many unsafe playground surfaces and equipment that can lead to injuries and
"While our surveyors around the country noted improvements, our message today is that
public action by parents and playground operators is critically needed to improve
playground safety," added Ed Mierzwinski, U.S. PIRG Consumer Program Director.
In the fourth national survey of public playgrounds, CFA and the PIRGs focused on the
hazards that cause the most serious playground injuries, -- falls, impact with moving
swings, entanglement and head entrapment. Protective surfacing under and around all play
equipment is the most critical factor on playgrounds, because about 75% of all injuries
are caused by falls.
The survey found that:
87% of playgrounds lacked adequate protective surfaces.
Equipment is too high; 62% of climbers and 37% of slides were at heights above six feet.
58% of playgrounds had swing spacing hazards or too many swings per bay.
In 42% of playgrounds, a steady decline from 55% in 1994 and 46% in 1996, there were head
entrapment hazards that could lead to strangulation.
In 40% of playgrounds, down from 47% in 1996, there were gaps, protrusions and other
features that could entangle a child's clothing and lead to strangulation.
In 44% of playgrounds, surveyors identified peeling, chipping, or cracked paint on at
least some playground surface. Further analysis is needed to determine if this paint
contains lead. A recent Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) survey of 26 playgrounds
found lead in 62% of the playgrounds surveyed.
The groups noted that, although the number of playgrounds lacking adequate protective
surfacing (87%) was about the same as in 1996 (85%), they were encouraged by an increase
from 15% to 22% of playgrounds with mixed hard and soft surfaces, suggesting that
playground operators are gradually replacing older worn grass and asphalt surfacing with
soft loose fill and
synthetic surfaces. "We believe that public education from our surveys and others is
making a difference, although more needs to be done," added Mierzwinski.
In addition to the new survey data, CFA also released a brand new Report and Model Law on
Public Play Equipment and Areas that contains detailed provisions addressing safety and
design for all play equipment and areas, as well as separate requirements specifically
intended for equipment for pre-school age children and for school age children. First
published in 1992, the third edition contains a detailed cross-comparison with the CPSC
voluntary guidelines for public play equipment.
"The CFA Model Law is a blueprint for safe playgrounds. It goes beyond the voluntary
guidelines, giving legislators the child development rationale for critical safety
measures, explained Fise. CFA also encourages state and local jurisdictions to adopt these
requirements and use them when purchasing new equipment or when refurbishing, remodeling
According to CPSC, nearly 150,000 children require hospital emergency treatment each year
as a result of injuries sustained on public playground equipment. An average of 15
children die in playground-related incidents each year.
"The state PIRGs are committed to working with state legislatures, local governments
and parents' groups that want to enact the CFA Model Playground Safety Law," added
CFA also released a brand new fact sheet, Home Play Equipment: Tips for Buying and Using,
on home play equipment, addressing the safety of backyard play sets and offering tips for
selecting and using home playsets.
CFA has also updated its popular free Parent Checklist: How Safe Is Your Local Playground?
The checklists sets out 12 important factors to examine and includes an explanation of
what is recommended for safer playgrounds. Both fact sheets are available free to
individuals by sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Playground Checklist, PO Box
12099, Washington, DC 20005-0999.
Consumer Federation of America is a non-profit association of some 240 pro-consumer
groups, with a combined membership of 50 million, that was founded in 1968 to advance the
consumer interest through advocacy and education.
U.S. PIRG is the national lobbying office for the state Public Interest Research Groups.
PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan consumer and environmental watchdog groups active
around the country. For more information, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the PIRG
web site http://www.pirg.org/consumer/playground/98/.