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Playgrounds Go Up in Flames?

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As playgrounds in New York heat up, so is the call to remove the black rubber mat flooring.

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Global warming might be warming up more than the Antarctic. A group of parents in New York are complaining that the black mats ubiquitous in most city play areas get so hot they are literally burning children. Reports say the mats can get up to 160 degrees. And it's not just in New York--playgrounds are heating up everywhere. Many parents don't even bother visiting playgrounds during the hottest part of the day because the chains from the swings and the slides get way too hot.

One Southern California mom recounts a too-hot-to-touch play area at a Fourth of July carnival: "They had tons of inflatable bouncies and slides. It was about 100 degrees. We paid $20 for a wristband and my 3-year-old went down the inflatable slide and began crying in pain. She had red welts all over her legs...she had been burned by the scalding hot slide. When I asked for a refund, I was denied. Obviously, we left immediately. Getting burned on an inflatable slide was not our idea of a good time!"

Unlike many mad moms, this one chose not to sue. Conversely, in New York, several lawsuits have been put in motion from angry parents, such as Reyhan Mehran whose 14-month-old son was burned at a park in 2004 when the child kicked off his shoes and ran--before his caregiver could stop him.

While some parents are outraged by the hot playgrounds, others think we're over protecting our kids. Parents remember when they were kids having creative solutions to the hot metal slide problem, "We poured water down the chute to cool it," says one dad.

Using playgrounds is not without risk, says John Crosby of the National Playground Safety Institute. "When public facilities offer play spaces, there is a huge opportunity for injury no matter what. It could be at an open space park and tree branch could fall." He also says there is one rule all parents should follow: "No child should approach a playground without their shoes." Crosby also recommends during hot summer days keeping your kids off of metal slides entirely.

And, although momlogic contributor and Pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson has never treated a child for a burn from rubberized playground surfaces, she insists her children wear shoes at all times at the playground. "I know that there are times when my kids want to take their shoes off and the surface is just too hot. Frankly, that is true of sandboxes and light-colored rubberized surfaces too. Unless there is a canopy of shade at the park, the ground can feel scorching."

While there are drawbacks with the black surfaces heating up, Dr. Cara favors them over the alternative. "Fall injures tend to be much more benign when a child is landing on a soft, padded surface compared with hard concrete."

Do you think public playgrounds are dangerous or parents are too overprotective?


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