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Arsenic findings confirmed

Placid school officials have elementary school playground tested

November 6, 2008
HEATHER SACKETT, News Staff Writer
LAKE PLACID — Arsenic testing on the wooden playground at the Lake Placid Elementary School by Galson Laboratories, of East Syracuse, has turned up results similar to those found earlier this year by the Lake Placid News.

The results revealed between .017 and .36 micrograms of arsenic per square inch, compared to the News’ findings of between 1 and 5.9 micrograms per 100 centimeters squared.

“My gut feeling is that it wouldn’t be much different than your (findings),” said John Warneck, health and safety coordinator for Jefferson Lewis BOCES.

On Oct. 2, Warneck collected nine samples from different heavily touched areas of the playground and eight soil samples from around the playground and adjacent sites. The highest levels of arsenic were found on a tunnel slide and a picnic table, .36 micrograms and .26 micrograms, respectively.

“The levels that were found are not excessive for this type of structure,” Warneck wrote in his report to Lake Placid Superintendent James Donnelly.

Still, Warneck said the district needs to “follow the (New York state) guidelines which recommend that treatment takes place annually with an oil-based, penetrating stain.” The district has been treating the playground every three years with a water-based sealant. Donnelly said the school plans on sealing the structure with an oil-based sealant, but it will have to wait until spring, since the manufacturer says several consecutive warmer-than-45-degree days are needed for the sealant to dry properly.

The playground was constructed in 1989 with chromated copper arsenate (CCA)-treated wood. The main concern with CCA-treated wood is that, over time, arsenic, a potentially carcinogenic chemical, leaches out of the wood. The News found that trace amounts of arsenic were present on the surface of the wood, as well as in the surrounding soil.

Although all the soil samples tested positive for arsenic, Warneck said they were very low because of the porous, crushed stone material used underneath the playground.

“Any arsenic leached out of the wood passes right through the stone with the rain ... As a result, it is safe to say children are not receiving any exposure from the soil,” he wrote.

Since the most common route of exposure to the chemical is ingestion through hand-to-mouth contact, the school implemented a hand-washing policy last month for students who have come into contact with the playground during recess.

“Kids do touch the surface in a lot more ways than we can imagine,” Warneck said.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency banned the use of CCA-treated wood in playgrounds in 2004, it does not require the removal of structures made with the wood. Still, a group of parents are in the beginning stages of planning a new playground. About seven members of the Lake Placid parent-teacher association, known as FRIENDS (Friends really interested in the education needs and development of students) have begun brainstorming ways to replace the existing playground.

“For the past couple of years we have wanted to fix the playground, and now is the best time,” said FRIENDS president Melanie O’Brien.

O’Brien has two elementary school-aged children and said she feels completely safe about them playing on the wooden playground, but would still like to see it replaced. She said the group has yet to have an official meeting on the issue.

Article Photos

The playground at the Lake Placid Elementary School.
Heather Sackett/Lake Placid News



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