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posted June 2003

Good news on arsenic in the playground

After Environmental Defence Canada called a press conference in March to announce leaching of arsenic in the sand around pressure-treated playground equipment (with our park listed as one of the worst in the country, 48.2 parts arsenic per million), lots of people got worried. The City's Parks Division had commissioned a study of playground arsenic levels the previous summer. They released their findings the week after the alarming ones. According to the Parks Department study, our playground equipment was NOT leaching much arsenic at all (just over 6 parts per million parts of sand, with anything under 12 ppm considered acceptable).

What to believe? When there are two such contradictory findings, it seems a good idea to look into the matter some more. The Parks Division was unwilling to re-test, but Environmental Defence said they would co-operate with us. Veronica Pochmursky, a shinny hockey player at our rink who has become a good friend of the park, agreed to take on the testing from our end (she has done this work professionally for many years). So BoAnne Tran from Environmental Defence came to the park on Environment Day (April 26) and joined Veronica in taking seven new samples, with many park users observing. They took more surface samples, like those the city's testers had taken, and deeper samples, like those previously taken by Environmental Defence. They checked around both the 1984 playground structures and the 1998 structures. Interesting! We brought the samples to a lab in Mississauga, and now the results have come back. They show even lower readings of arsenic than the Parks Division study showed, ranging from 1.2ppm to 4.1ppm, with the exception of one sample at 7.7ppm. Even that higher sample is still well below the acceptable level of 12 parts arsenic per million parts of sand.

Carol Cormier of the Parks Division had promised that if our tests showed a higher than acceptable arsenic reading, the city would provide the expensive sealant for our playground structures. Many people from the neighbourhood already volunteered to help seal the playground. Now it turns out it's not necessary. Wonderful! And parents can let their children play at the park with their minds at ease.

We are sharing the cost of the re-testing with Environmental Defence. Our portion is $51.66, which we'll pay by collecting a loonie each from 51 people in the playground and/ or at Friday night supper. Beyond that, Veronica Pochmursky has assembled a whole lot of background information about arsenic and its effects. Her article is posted on our web site: Read more >>

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