,As children return to school, keeping children safe and healthy is always on parents’ (and teachers’) minds. In the classroom, many teachers will be prepared with Lysol wipes to wipe down surfaces like clockwork. But what about outdoor surfaces like playground equipment? It’s not always thought of as a vector for germs, but a study from HomeAdvisor found that a playground’s high traffic areas, such as rock walls, baby swings and seesaws have approximately 9 million colony-forming units (CFUs) per square inch. To put that in perspective, that is 52 thousand times more bacteria than the standard household toilet seat.
Covid-19 and other coronaviruses (including the common cold) are no different and can be found lurking in swings and slides. Now that we are in the heat of summer, there’s a good chance high temperatures will destroy the virus. However, you can never be too sure, and, as discussed in my previous blog post, different surface materials have different dwell times. Plastic equipment like swings and tunnels take between 2-3 days without activity for all Covid-19 pathogens to die. Metal varies based off its type: lasting 4 hours on copper and only 2-3 hours on aluminum. Stainless steel, on the other hand, has a similar dwell time to plastic (~2-3 days). Wood surfaces are safest, as there absorptive abilities dry out microbes. However, as a hospital conducted research study indicated, the previous SARS virus (SARS-CoV-1), lasted up to four days in wooden surfaces.
So now that I have you worried, let’s talk about disinfection solutions. Prior to disinfection, you should always clean the equipment with soup and low pressure water from a garden hose, as pressure washers can damage the equipment's paint and surfaces. Prepared solutions of unexpired household bleach (the dilution ratio is here) or solutions of at least 70% EPA approved alcohol (as well as other EPA-registered household disinfectants) will get the job done. Be sure to wear PPE to prevent the spread of covid-19 and to protect yourself from inhalation of bleach solution. Never mix ammonia solutions with bleach, as this produces toxic chlorine gas). Ensure the solution maintains contact with the equipment for at least one minute. Then rinse with the low pressure hose and let it air dry prior to children playing on it.
Some communities have members or groups who volunteered their time to playground disinfecting initiatives. If you have the time and resources, this is something you might consider joining (or even spearheading). If you are as busy as many parents are, continue practicing social distancing precautions. Bring along disinfecting towelettes or hand sanitizer to the playground. It’s even a good idea to bring along a first aid kit to take care of any potential scrapes. Encourage children to wash their hands with soap and water after playing. This should occur for at least 15 seconds to be effective. Tell them to practice this in school as well, as should the practice of using only their own school supplies. Don’t be afraid to communicate with their teachers to ensure these proper hygiene practices are implemented.
There is a lot of unknown with coronavirus that parents and teachers have to be concerned about. But don’t fret: with playground equipment, there is an easy solution (pun intended).