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    A Safe Backyard for Kids

    Playing outside in the backyard is a natural pasttime for most kids. Keeping that outside environment safe is key to keeping children healthy and injury-free.

    Home Playground Safety

    Each year, more than 200,000 children go to emergency rooms for playground-related injuries. And while deaths from such injuries are rare, most happen at home.

    Supervising your child at play is a big factor in reducing injury. And taking these playground precautions will also reduce risk:

    • Cover areas under and around the playground equipment with shock-absorbing material, such as sand, rubber, or mulch, 9-12 inches deep.
    • Make sure swing seats are made of soft rubber, not hard wood.
    • Don't suspend more than two swing seats in the same section of the equipment's support structure. Most home playground injuries can be blamed on swings.
    • The equipment should have ladders with steps rather than rungs for easier access, or rungs with more than nine inches or less than three and a half inches of space between them, to prevent children from getting stuck.
    • Cover all protruding bolts.
    • Do not attach ropes or cords to the play set, which could become strangulation hazards.
    • Plastic play sets or climbing equipment should never be used indoors on wood or cement floors, even if they're carpeted. All climbing equipment should be outdoors on shock-absorbing surfaces to prevent children's head injuries.
    • Slides and platforms should be no higher than six feet for school-age children, or four feet for pre-schoolers.
    • Platforms, walkways, ramps, and ladders should have adequate guardrails.
    • Protect against tripping hazards such as tree stumps, concrete footings, and rocks.
    • During hot summer days, check the temperature of the slides and swings, because they can become hot enough to cause burns to the skin.

    Treated Wood Is a Risk for Kids

    Arsenic in pressure-treated wood -- used in play sets, decks, and picnic tables across the country -- poses an increased risk of cancer to kids who play and eat on wood surfaces, according to the EPA.

    Many outdoor wooden structures in the U.S. are made from arsenic-based treated wood. While the wood industry phased out production of this type of wood in 2003, existing structures are still a concern.

    To protect your children from arsenic exposure, take the following measures:

    • Seal the wood at least once per year with standard penetrating deck treatments.
    • Replace potentially high-exposure sections such as handrails, steps, or deck boards with non-arsenic alternatives.
    • Keep children and pets away from the soil beneath and immediately surrounding arsenic-treated wood structures.
    • Cover arsenic-treated picnic tables with a tablecloth before using.
    • Do not pressure-wash to clean the surface of arsenic-treated wood. Instead, use a soap and water solution, with disposable cleaning supplies.
    • Do not allow children to play on rough wood surfaces. Arsenic-treated wood splinters can be dangerous.
    • Do not store toys or tools under the deck. Arsenic leaches from the wood when it rains and may coat things left there.
    • Do not use commercial "deck washing" solutions. These solutions can convert chemicals on the wood to a more toxic form.
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