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Aussie dad highlights 'severe' danger at children's playgrounds

The slide at his local park had a surface temperature of 70 degrees.

As Australia's hot summer rolls on, a concerned dad is calling for better shade and heat protection at children's playgrounds.

Nic Seton, CEO of Parents for Climate went to his local playground in Camperdown Memorial Park, in Sydney on January 21 when the maximum temperature for the day was about 33 degrees.

Using his surface thermometer reader, Seton found the surface temperature of some of the play equipment was so hot it could cause "severe burns within seconds".

The slide, sitting directly in the sun due to "missing shade cloths", was a whopping 70 degrees — 20 degrees higher than the 50-degree max according to Kidsafe NSW. "If the surface temperature feels too hot or is 50 degrees or more, it is too hot for play," they say.

Left image shows a playground sitting in the sun. Right image shows the surface thermometer reader showing the slide is 70 degrees.
The slide in the playground had a surface temperature of 70 degrees. Source: TikTok

On Thursday, the Bureau of Meteorology released its Annual Climate Statement advising that 2023 was warmer than average for Australia. "Since records began in 1910 it was the equal eighth warmest year on record," the BoM said, and advised that since 1910 Australia's climate has warmed around 1.5 degrees.

With these rising temperatures and lack of adequate basic protection at parks, Seton told Yahoo News Australia it means many environments, such as playgrounds, can be unsafe for children.

"We're seeing this kind of acceptance that our environment is just hot, but these environments can be dangerous," he said.

Parents call lack of shade in playgrounds 'appalling'

Sharing a video of his findings on social media, parents quickly responded to agree with Nic. "The lack of shading at playgrounds is actually appalling," one person said.

"This is so cooked! It's sad to see how children are already feeling the consequences of climate change. Thanks for sharing," another added.

Heatwaves kill more than other extreme weather events and babies and young children are the most at risk of heat-related health problems according to NSW Health — which is why shade and sheltered options in parks are so important.

"They're one of the high-risk groups and they just don't have the agency of adults," Nic adds.

Council responds to 'dangerous' temperatures on playground

After being approached about high surface temperatures in playgrounds, the Inner West Council told Yahoo it has been continually increasing investment at children's playgrounds with the aim of providing safe cover at all of them.

"Council has shade sails over the majority of our playground areas," a spokesperson said. "Two years ago, Council undertook an audit of shade sails and identified priority playgrounds for shade sail implementation [and] as a result, the majority of Council's playgrounds have shade sails."

Council added that they have "complemented" this with "significant tree planting around playgrounds" and are "committed to doing as much as possible to mitigate the effects of extreme heat".

Yahoo understands they are investigating the matter at Camperdown Memorial Park.

A drone image shows a suburban playground during lockdown in Canberra in 2021.
It is recommended parents hold their hand just above the surface to determine if the playground surface is too hot. Source: AAP

Tips for preventing injury from hot play equipment

  • Hold your hand just above the surface to determine if the playground surface is too hot.

  • Wet the area to cool the surface if too hot.

  • Use light-coloured surfacing as it is less likely to get as hot.

  • Wait for a cooler time of day if possible.

Australia's 'extreme' UV levels some of the highest in the world

Repeated warnings shared by Aussies and tourists being "cooked" by the Australian sun in recent months underline the stark reality of how a day at the local park in the Aussie sun in the country can turn into something more sinister.

Professor Anne Cust of the Melanoma Institute Australia and Chair of Cancer Council’s National Skin Cancer Committee previously told Yahoo News Australia sunburn can occur in as little as 15 minutes on a fine January day in Australia.

"The UV index levels are much higher here so we have very intense exposure to UV radiation — particularly in the spring and summer, it doesn't take long to be to get burned."