Lead Testing

Lead Testing of Playground Surfaces

The Department of Parks and Recreation in Prince George’s County, part of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, recently conducted specialized testing to assess lead levels in rubberized play surfaces.

Fifty-four of the Department’s playgrounds contain Poured-in-Place (PIP) rubber surfacing to enhance accessibility while reducing the likelihood of serious injuries from falls.

Riverdale Park School Playground

Surface testing at the 54 playgrounds indicated that EPA standards were met, with the exception of the playground at Riverdale Park School. The conclusion of the testing showed levels of lead above the EPA standards within rubber surfacing, resulting in the immediate closure of the playground to the public.

The Department posted signage on the entrance gate to announce the closure. Repairs are currently in progress and all rubber surfaces will be removed and replaced with Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF): a processed wood (approx. 2″ length max.), ground to a fibrous consistency, free of hazardous elements, and engineered specifically for playgrounds. Upon completion of the renovations, retesting will be conducted prior to reopening to ensure compliance.

More information on the Department’s testing of lead in playground surfaces can be found here.

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Why did we start testing lead in the County’s playgrounds?

Testing was initiated after dozens of District of Columbia Public School playground surfaces tested as having elevated levels of potentially toxic lead in 2019.

How frequently do we test for lead at playgrounds?

This is the first time that we have tested all existing playgrounds. 

Will we continue to use Poured-In-Place (PIP)?

Our typical playground uses use Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) surfacing. EWF is a processed wood (approx. 2″ length max.), ground to a fibrous consistency, free of hazardous elements, and approved by the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA). It is engineered specifically for playgrounds and free of twig and leaf material. However, each site will be evaluated to determine the best surface. Site conditions or programmatic needs may make poured in place a preferred surface. For example, a site that is in the flood plain may be a good candidate for PIP.

How long will the remediation work take at Riverdale?

The remediation work to be completed by HAZMAT specialists will be completed by Summer 2021. Full-depth play surface and base to be removed to soil depth and tested for EPA complicate standards prior to replacing new EWF wood fiber safety surfacing material.

What is the long-term strategy for keeping Prince George’s County residents safe?

We are committed to providing a safe play environment for Prince George’s County families. Rubberized surface playgrounds are recommended to be tested annually to meet EPA standards. Any future PIP surfacing will be tested before the playground is opened for use. The Park Planning and Development Division is finalizing a playground replacement plan and can incorporate recommendations for a 10-year life cycle prior to further deterioration to keep play spaces safe and maintained. The Department will determine future playground surfacing standard use of either EWF or PIP, decision points based on existing environmental site conditions, ADA needs, and community/facility director requests.