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Kids Are Being Badly Burned On Dangerously Hot Play Equipment

Warning: Graphic images.

Thousands of playgrounds across the country are using unsuitable materials that are putting children at risk, with some surfaces our kids are playing on exceeding 100 degrees, new research from Western Sydney University has found.

The hottest temperature recorded by the team was 108.4 degrees-Celcius on a black rubber surface at a Western Sydney playground.

Shockingly, that’s not an anomaly.

“Usually we find temperatures of about 80 to 90 degrees on a normal summer day,” said Dr Sebastian Pfautsch, one of the study’s lead researchers.

These thermal images show just how hot common play equipment can get.

This swing seat is hotter than 70C. Ouch. Photo: Western Sydney University
Spots on this play equipment record temperatures of almost 80C. Photo: Western Sydney University

It’s not just an issue of comfort. It’s also potentially dangerous.

In November an 18-month old from Queensland was left with second-degree burns to the bottom of her feet after playing in an Ipswich park

Burns on the feet of a Queensland toddler. Photo: Supplied

"In seconds the damage had been done. We instinctively tried to get her feet into cool water only to have her hysterically screaming and needing extra care," her mother Simone Pickering said.

The toddler has now lost some feeling on the bottom of her feet.

There was a similar case in Perth on New Year's Day.  Fourteen-month-old Jagger Simmons was rushed to Perth Children's Hospital with second and third-degree burns to the soles of his feet while playing at his Nanna's house.

Fourteen-month-old Jagger Simmons was rushed to Perth Children's hospital with second and third-degree burns to the soles of his feet. Photo: Supplied

Mum Pippa Simmons, 34, said her son had been on the grass in the shade. But just moments later he'd wandered onto the pavement.

"We'd been playing outside and we put him down on the ground, barefoot, for just ten seconds or so, and yeah we turned around and the next minute he was screaming," she said.

READ MORE: Toddler Suffers Third Degree Burns To Feet After Walking On Scorching Pavement

The worst offender is 'soft fall rubber', a staple at new playgrounds.

Councils and developers use it because it’s tough, low maintenance and cheap.

This thermal image of soft fall rubber is recording temperatures of over 90C. Photo: Western Sydney University,

Metal slides, while not a new invention, can also be dangerous. Researchers estimate on a hot day these can get up to 130 degrees and retain heat well into the night.

The heat outdoors causes problems inside, with the temperature affecting the way kids learn.

READ MORE: A Very Slippery Slope: We Don't Know How Safe Kids' Playgrounds Are

According to Professor Kathryn Holmes, the director of the centre for educational research at Western Sydney University, research showed that for every degree the temperature goes up concentration goes down.

“If the surfaces are too hot in the playground it's dangerous but it also means they are less likely to be physically active and less likely to be mentally active when they get into the classroom,” she said.

The advice from experts is to spend time in playgrounds at the start or the end of the day when temperatures have dropped.

Parents are also advised to look out for shade sails and trees which will provide extra shade.

Natural materials including grass and mulch are also significantly cooler than man-made products.