Safety checks ordered over playground health fears

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A third school in Beijing has reported potential "problems" with its synthetic playground surface as the capital's education authority ordered citywide safety checks on all synthetic playgrounds.

Children allegedly developed symptoms such as nose bleeds, coughing, drowsiness, hair loss, and skin irritation in the past two months at north Beijing's Shangdi Experimental Primary School, parents told They said they believe the man-made playground surface may be linked to the symptoms.

The latest incident came amid a quality and safety crisis surrounding synthetic sports surfaces at school campuses. This is the third suspected case in Beijing.

The capital's education authority on Wednesday ordered checks on all synthetic playground surfaces on campuses citywide, Xinhua reported. Those constructed last year are major targets and for safety concerns the making of such surfaces has been suspended.

The playground in the Shangdi school was renovated last year and the school authority was arranging checks on the surface material, according to a message sent by the school to parents on Monday.

The playground was shut and student health was being monitored, it said.

A teacher, requesting anonymity, said less than 10 of the 46 students in her class reported nose bleeds in the past two months. There are more than 2,000 students in the school.

According to a product testing report released by the school, the playground was made mainly of polyurethane, widely used in the making of outdoor sports surfaces in China.

Industry insiders said quality products don't smell or cause health hazards but some producers might add materials like toluene, lead, and plasticizer, which could bring health problems after prolonged exposure.

The use of synthetic running tracks and man-made surfaces date back 30 years in China, but related testing and quality standards were sometimes found wanting.

Without product standards, it's hard to conduct environmental safety checks and introduce standards, specialists said.

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