Playgrounds sizzle to 140+ degrees during summer heat

Hot weather can heat up playground equipment like frying pans to temperatures high enough to seriously burn skin.

Severe burns are rare, thankfully, but remain serious enough to prompt warnings to families from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, CPSC, in Washington, D.C.

We used a thermal imaging camera to measure temperatures of playground equipment at Sunnyside School Park in Southeast Portland.

The camera was supplied by FLIR Systems, based in Wilsonville, which manufactures surveillance technology for the military and other high-end applications.

Sunnyside's equipment is made from modern plastic and other materials designed with heat safety in mind. Even so, slides, ladders and other surfaces roast in the strong sun to dangerous levels.

Here's what we found from FLIR's camera:

  • Pavement - 106 degrees

  • Mulch - 145 degrees

  • Plastic slide - 130+ degrees (98 degrees in the shade)

  • Metal ladder - 100 degrees

  • Metal handle - 94 degrees

  • Plastic tic-tac-toe board - 95 degrees

  • Metal bridge - 126 degrees

  • Wooden bench - 140 degrees (88 degrees in the shade)

  • Metal water fountain - 113 degrees

CPSC tells parents to check playgrounds for older metal equipment or paint that rubbed off modern playgrounds. It published a playground safety guide on its website.

The federal agency is aware of 30 kids who were seriously burned between 2001 and 2008 at various U.S. playgrounds.

A spokesman for Portland Parks, Mark Ross, told KATU that its playgrounds have a mix of older and newer equipment with different levels of heat-resistant materials.

"We work carefully in planning sites for installing new playground equipment to ensure it's located in a spot where it doesn't get too much sun exposure," Ross wrote in an email message, adding staff occasionally move slides to different areas of a park that receive less sunlight.

Portland Parks and Recreation did not have any statistics available about the number of kids burned in its parks.