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Protect DC Kids from Burns and Heat Stroke

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To: Jennifer Niles, Deputy Mayor of Education (

Cc: Councilmember David Grosso (, Councilmember Mary Cheh (

We District of Columbia residents urge Deputy Mayor of Education Jennifer Niles to protect children from burns and heatstroke by immediately implementing a provisional surface temperature policy for playgrounds and synthetic turf fields.

We recommend using Brigham Young University’s standard of 120 °F as the maximum allowable surface temperature. Further research may indicate a lower maximum is safer, but getting any measure in place now is an improvement from having no policy at all.

A provisional policy will not hinder the process of establishing a permanent policy. It will, however, protect children. Handheld laser thermometers are inexpensive and easy to obtain. Principals should be responsible for ensuring that fields or playgrounds that exceed 120 degrees are not to be in use.

It is not sufficient to say that DGS will work out a policy later, as even on 9/26/17 and 9/27/17, the brand new synthetic turf fields at Eaton and Janney Elementary School both reached 140.5 degrees at 3 PM.

According to NIST, at 111 °F, humans begin to feel a burning pain, with first-degree burns developing at 118 °F. At 131°F exposed skin develops second-degree burns. At 140 °F skin develops third-degree burns and pain receptors overload and become numb. At 162°F human tissue is destroyed on contact, and damage is so extensive that there may not be any pain because of nerve damage.

From Penn State, a detail of materials and temperatures. They state “BYU guideline: no use above 120° F (49° C).”

This policy statement from American Academy of Pediatrics, notes that children have a harder time acclimating to environmental changes. Their higher body-surface to mass ratio makes them absorb more heat.

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