San Juan Island School District: Some parents have concerns about playground equipment

One of the much anticipated additions to Friday Harbor Elementary School is the new "Big Toy" playground equipment.

Through the tireless work of the PTA, funds were raised for the upgrade. However, while the toy itself is ready to go, some FHES parents have raised their concerns about the “crumb rubber” material which was chosen as underlayment to protect children when they jump or fall from the toy.

Three options for the underlayment were offered by the company, each meeting current ASTM safety standards, according to the school district. “Crumb rubber” is a standard product that is installed in playgrounds throughout the nation, however, concerns have recently been raised about potential long-term effects of exposure to the chemicals in the recycled tire rubber.

The district has consulted the state Department of Health as well as Steve Grout, the risk management representative from the district’s insurance carrier, Canfield and Associates. Canfield and Associates insures 80 percent of the school districts in Washington state.

The insurance carrier and the health department said that they had received no reports of adverse affects from this product, and that it has been successfully used by school districts and park departments in Washington. However, though the product has been in use for 15 years, studies of the long-term exposure to the product have yet to be conducted.

The PTA and district administration have formed a committee to immediately conduct a thorough review of the product as well as other product options for the safety underlayment. The committee will consider product options, including potential benefits and risks, in order to make a recommendation to either keep the “crumb rubber” or to replace it with another product.

The PTA has placed this issue on its meeting agenda scheduled for Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. at the elementary school. The meeting is open to all parents.

Parents who have concerns and who wish to exclude their children from using the playground equipment until a final decision is made about the product may do so, the district reported.

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