Which Playground Surface is Safest For Kids?
Wood mulch is a popular surface for playgrounds. It’s often under the swings and the jungle gym where kids play and where sometimes kids fall. Wood mulch is preferred over most and has been tested to be safe. Yet is it the safest option for kids?
Wood mulch, commonly 안전놀이터 referred to as Engineered Wood Fiber, is a certified product that meets all applicable guidelines, with certifications from the ASTM, CPSC and IPEMA. Wood mulch is tested to be safe. Yet it’s tested when it’s brand new, leveled to the perfect depth, unfrozen, and untouched. It may be safe in the lab–but children play on playgrounds, not in laboratories. What happens when mulch gets wet and compacted? What happens when that fresh, moist, mulch dries out after being in the sun? It may no longer meet the safety standards.
Some of the mulch that is being marketed as playground surfacing is the same product used to mulch gardens. The wood fiber surfaces may come from recycled wood material. The problem is, wood pallets are made from treated wood which has proven to be toxic. It could contain nails and staples that got mixed into the shredded mulch. Still, wood mulch is one of the most widely-used ‘safety’ surfaces in the US.
The websites of the largest wood mulch manufacturers in the US are revealing. They have a long list of disclaimers.
Some direct quotes: According to Zeager.com, “During freezing conditions, all of our playground surfaces will naturally be less resilient, particularly with poor drainage. Restrict use of the area accordingly.”
Fibar.com states: “Should there be moisture retention in the Fibar System, it will freeze when the temperature drops below the freezing mark. Please check your surface frequently in winter weather. When the surface is frozen, the impact attenuation properties of Fibar are lost and for this reason, the play area should not be used.”