Lead-based paint was previously used on play equipment prior to 1980. This isn’t necessarily a problem until paint deteriorates and poses an exposure risk from inhalation of dust or ingestion of paint chips.
Lead Paint Control Program for Playground Equipment
In an effort to reduce the community’s exposure to lead, between 2005 to 2011, PP&R removed, refurbished, or replaced more than 60 pieces of playground equipment which had tested positive for lead-based paint. Since that time, PP&R has identified that more comprehensive testing and potential removals needed to take place.
The Bureau undertook a proactive endeavor beginning in 2016 in which approximately 100 pieces of equipment at over 40 playgrounds were tested for lead-based paint and exposure risk. All equipment which tested positive for lead-based paint has been removed and/or confirmed to not pose exposure risk. Because of the potential for future deterioration of paint, the final pieces of play equipment where lead-based paint was found will be removed in 2018.
Portland Parks & Recreation staff replaced 14 pieces of play equipment citywide in 2017.
Phase II of the Parks Replacement Bond will replace many more pieces to further enhance Portland Parks & Recreation playgrounds. For more information on Bond projects, please visit parksreplacementbond.org.
Lead Testing at PP&R Playgrounds
All playground equipment installed in 1980 or before has been tested for the presence of lead-based paint.
The actions will be updated with completed and anticipated actions. If a particular piece of equipment is removed due to lead paint and subsequently replaced, the website has been updated to reflect the date the new equipment was installed. In rare circumstances, equipment which does have lead-based paint, but, in the opinion of the Certified Lead Risk Assessor, does not pose an immediate health risk due to intact encapsulation or other reasons, it may remain in a monitored status until replaced in 2018.
Questions and Answers
Q: What PP&R playground equipment has lead paint?
A: All playground equipment known to have lead-based paint has already been: removed, encapsulated to seal the lead-based paint, or fenced-off to prevent public exposure. Lead-based paint could be present on equipment installed before 1980. In 2002, PP&R tested over 138 pieces of equipment installed prior to 1980. This round of testing led to the control program of 2005–2011 when 60 pieces of equipment were identified and addressed. However, that project did not test all pieces in our system installed prior to 1980.
Q: What does PP&R do when it discovers lead-based paint in play equipment?
A: Within 72 hours of discovery, we will fence it off from the public or remove it in order to eliminate public exposure risk.
Q: Should I be worried about my child’s lead levels?
A: If you are concerned about your child’s lead levels, the best thing you can do is have them tested. For testing, please contact your licensed medical provider or find out more about Multnomah County’s free testing at leadline.org.
It is also important to understand the science and statistics around lead exposure. Children six and younger are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure and can be exposed through dust, paint, soil, pottery and jewelry, piping and solder, food and more.
While there is no safe level of lead in our blood, children are most at risk when they have sustained and prolonged exposure to ingesting lead, often in the home. To understand your child’s risk of exposure, please note that Multnomah County reports that from 2013 to 2016, more than 15,000 lead tests were conducted. Of those, elevated blood lead levels were found in 188 children.
PP&R does not want to contribute to anyone’s lead levels—that is why we will continue to invest over time in our Lead Paint Control Program for play equipment and PP&R will be removing all equipment confirmed to have lead-based paint by Summer 2018.
Q: Why doesn’t PP&R just paint over the equipment which has lead-based paint?
A: Because doing so has proven to not be a permanent, thorough, nor cost-effective solution. Painting over, or encapsulating-lead based paint can be an effective but temporary control measure in some instances where such paint is encountered in buildings. However, playground equipment in parks is available to the general public, and is subject to abrasion, impacts, pounding, weather conditions, and other human and environmental factors. These can all compromise the ongoing effectiveness of encapsulation as a hazard control measure. Therefore, encapsulation is not a durable solution. In order best protect the public from potential hazards associated with lead based paint on playground equipment, PP&R is primarily considering only permanent control measures.
Q: Why doesn’t PP&R just sandblast off the lead-based paint?
A: Because doing so has proven to not be a permanent, thorough, nor cost-effective solution. PP&R has evaluated all methods to permanently control lead-based paint hazards on identified playground equipment, and we continue to do so. Removal of the equipment is the most feasible effective permanent control action known, even with associated costs and inconvenience to the neighborhood. Sandblasting or other forms of lead-based paint abatement must be done by a Oregon Licensed, Certified Lead Paint Abatement Contractor. Additionally, all abatement work needs a third-party clearance to be performed by a Certified Lead Risk Assessor as final verification. In consultation with an Industrial Hygiene firm, PP&R has concluded that sandblasting is not viable due to the potential for hazardous material release, nor does the method thoroughly nor permanently remove all lead-based paint hazards. PP&R also investigated non-mechanical means of lead-based paint abatement. Though it could be technically feasible in some very limited circumstances, such a method contains its own risks, and also fails to provide a thorough and permanent risk abatement. Though the public health risk should effectively be eliminated, these methods would not remove lead hazards from difficult to access parts of the playground equipment assembly such as joints and corners. This poses management considerations for the time when the equipment needs to eventually be repaired or disposed of. Preliminary estimates show abatement to cost thousands of dollars for one piece of playground equipment. Because of these high costs and additional risks, PP&R generally does not consider abatement a viable strategy for the vast majority of playground equipment which tested positive for lead-based paint.
Q: Does PP&R test for lead in other things, like its water?
A. Until 2016, PP&R did not do systematic testing of its water. In June of 2016, PP&R facilities began voluntarily testing for lead in water. You can find out more about water testing here.
We are continuing to consult with a contracted Certified Lead Risk Assessor around any other potential testing needs in our parks system.
Your safety is our top priority. Though temporary control measures may have been employed in the past (such as encapsulation of the paint), these solutions are not often durable over long time periods with varying environments.
Therefore, Commissioner Amanda Fritz and Portland Parks Director Mike Abbaté committed to removing or fully abating all playground equipment which has tested positive for lead-based paint from our inventory by 2018. This project is now complete.
For more questions, please contact Mark Ross at 503-823-5300.