Paints on surfaces of public playground structures in south west England have been analysed for Pb, Cr, Cd and Sb by field-portable, energy-dispersive XRF. Lead was detected (> 8 g g-1) in 102 out of 242 cases, with concentrations ranging from 10 to 152,000 g g-1 (median = 451 g g-1). Chromium was detected (> 25 g g-1) in 48 cases, and concentrations ranged from 26 to 24,800 g g-1 (median = 1,040 g g-1) and exhibited a significant positive correlation with Pb concentrations. Antimony concentrations ranged from 273 to 16,000 g g-1 (median = 2,180 g g-1) in 56 detectable cases, and Cd was detected in eight paints and up to a concentration of 771 g g-1 (median = 252 g g-1). The highest concentrations of Pb, Cr and Sb generally occurred in yellow or red paints but were encountered on a variety of structures and equipment (e.g. gates, flooring lines, railings and handles of climbing frames and seesaws, and the interior of a model train) and were observed in both flaking, extant paint and in formulations that appeared to have been recently applied. Maximum bioaccessible concentrations of Pb, Cr and Sb in a range of paints, evaluated in selected samples by ICP analysis following pepsin-dilute HCl extraction, were 2,710, 205 and 23.6 g g-1, respectively, or 16.6, 2.25 and 0.56% of the respective total concentrations. Total and bioaccessible concentrations of toxic metals in playground paints that exceed various contemporary and historical standards (and in many cases for Pb, by orders of magnitude) is likely to be a more widespread and pervasive issue that needs addressing by the relevant authorities.



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Science of the Total Environment



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School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences


Playgrounds, Paint, Lead, Chromium, Health, Children