Izzy Eats: The art of raising a gourmand, one bite at a time

Stirring tales of eating, cooking and foraging in my never-ending quest to provide, great-tasting (local and organic whenever possible) EATS for me and my boy(s).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

All Eats and No Play

Would make Izzy an unhappy boy. Play, as food, is an all important part of our day. Unfortunately, recent park issues have turned playtime into a source of worry...

With the official closing of Hamilton Park on April 30, finding a place to play has become more of a challenge. We have been using the nearby water park but the social scene is not quite the same as it was at Hamilton Park. So we were eagerly awaiting the opening of the temporary playground at Hamilton Square. When it finally opened a few weeks ago we were thrilled. We went over on market day and spread ourselves out on the green sod. I watched happily as Izzy ran off to the jungle gym, ready to romp.

The children were immediately drawn to the dark-brown mulch covering the surface beneath and surrounding the jungle gym, which they began tossing over the entire play structure and down the slide. Moms with younger children admonished Izzy for sprinkling the mulch chips around and I walked over to assess the situation. I immediately noted the suspicious-looking faux mulch. My first thought was, "Great, we have a new playground but it is full of an unhealthy substance." I examined it, noting its rubbery consistency, and brought it home for further inspection.

My internet research has led me to a variety of articles on the topic, most of which have increased my concerns. This article, from 2007, indicates that rubber playground surfaces leach a plethora of carcinogenic compounds into the air.

A more recent article in the Boston Globe is also discouraging. Although not targeting rubber mulch specifically, it outlines issues with other potentially toxic rubber playground surface materials.

Each time I return to the temporary playground I watch as Izzy and other neighborhood kids play amidst the mulch, inhaling potentially harmful toxins and fumes. The odor alone is signal enough that it cannot be healthy for our children. All the organic food I feed Izzy will not counteract the effects of an hour of play in that mulch. And expecting the children not to touch the mulch is virtually impossible.

On our last visit to the playground, the mulch was embedded in Izzy's hair and he sneezed many times following the visit, although he did not have a cold. I couldn't help but wonder if it was somehow related.

There must be a better alternative to using this potentially toxic mulch. Just because it might be okay for the Obamas to use doesn't mean that it is right for us.

The question now remains...

What should be done about this new playground surface? Do we want to continue to expose our children to uncertain risks? Although this is a temporary playground, it is uncertain how long it will be in use. What are the plans for the surface of the new playground in Hamilton Park? If we raise our concerns now we can avoid a similar situation in the permanent playground.

If anyone has any other insights into this matter or would like to join me in raising our concerns, please contact me.

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