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Child burned on DC playground highlights turf, rubber surface concerns

WASHINGTON — Some parents have concerns over synthetic turf and rubber-surface playgrounds in D.C.

Last year, more than one dozen fields failed safety tests.

The city made repairs, formed a working group, and promised to present solutions by Spring 2018. Spring is almost over and parents now have more concerns as summer approaches.

“It was like he had stood on a hot skillet,” Alex Dimsdale said. If pictures could talk, photos of Dimsdale’s son – Magnus -- would be screeching.

“They had big, white blisters forming on the bottom of them,” Dimsdale recalled.

Magnus got second-degree burns on his feet while walking barefoot on a hot DC playground two years ago.

“I didn’t realize that the playground surface could get that hot,” Dimsdale explained. “It was the sort of rubberized playground surface that they have underneath swings.”

The rubber surfaces share the same concerns parents had about the rubber used in the city’s 52 artificial turf fields.

“No matter what kind of rubber they use, they just all get really, really hot,” Kathleen Michels, with Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition, said.

Michels explained injuries like the ones Magnus had are common for athletes playing on rubber surfaces.

“The most immediate injuries are the burns and what they call turf burns— which basically are severe abrasions,” she said.

Last October, 16 synthetic turf fields failed hardness tests called GMAX.

Bad or high GMAX scores could lead to a higher probability of concussions and other injuries.

The Department of General Services replaced four of those fields and made repairs to nine of them.

DGS also created an interagency working group to review data, consider safety risks, and make recommendations on how the city should move forward.

The city promised to have those recommendations to the public by the spring, but on Monday, a spokesperson would only say the group “will make public the full set of recommendations it will be acting on soon.”

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