A NEW study has found that cleaning playground equipment in mining towns only reduces a child's risk of exposure to dust metals for 24 hours.
The study based in Port Pirie, South Australia, where lead smelting has taken place since 1889 found cleaning playground equipment reduced exposure to dust metals by 55.9 per cent, but recontamination occurred within 24 hours of cleaning.
Macquarie University Researcher Professor Mark Taylor says towns like Port Pirie where lead exposures are well documented implement programs to reduce exposures.
"We wanted to assess the efficacy of washing or wet mopping the play equipment to reduce children's exposure to the toxins," he said.
"The results clearly show that while washing play equipment reduces metal loading on playgrounds and hands after play, it does not resolve the problem of emissions and their depositions on community playgrounds."
In 2013 Professor Taylor showed atmospheric emissions from the Port Pirie smelter were directly related to dust and hand metal exposure from playground equipment. The dust was found to contain arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and zinc.
Childhood lead exposure remains a persistent problem in Australia's primary smelting and mining cities with towns like Broken Hill (20 per cent), Mount Isa (4.8 per cent) and Port Pirie (22.7 percent) all seeing lead blood levels above the Australian goal in kids under five.
Professor Taylor says the only permanent way to protect children from exposure to dust metals is to eliminate or significantly reduce smelter emissions.
"In the meantime, frequent hand and equipment washing is recommended for limited protection, and ongoing testing and lower standards for all environmental metals in Port Pirie is an absolute necessity for maximum environmental and human health protection."