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Children's illnesses may be linked to running tracks

By WANG XIN/CANG WEI (China Daily) Updated: 2015-10-16 07:11

Many primary school students in Jiangsu province suffered nosebleeds, dizziness and rashes after attending schools that recently installed plastic running tracks on their playgrounds.

Parents of primary school students in several cities reported similar symptoms that started to show up in their children after school began in September.

The provincial educational department said on Wednesday that schools with pungent plastic tracks must hire professionals to perform tests. It sent a panel of experts to the cities to investigate the bidding process for the construction of the tracks. Any illegal behavior will be severely punished.

Chen Yun, a teacher at Chongning Primary School in Wuxi, said no organization could provide the school with an official test report for its track. "The local disease control center said they can detect and analyze the air in an enclosed space, such as classrooms and washrooms. But they cannot test in open spaces," Chen said.

Local environmental protection authorities have also declined to test the air around the pungent plastic running tracks.

According to the Jiangsu Environmental Protection Bureau, China has no standards for the running track industry, which will make the air measurements meaningless as there are no data for reference in determining whether the air is contaminated. Moreover, materials used to build the tracks are not tested when they are produced at factories because of a lack of industry standards, it said.

Ye Ping, deputy director of Taizhou Product Quality Supervision and Inspection Institute, said harmful elements in plastic running tracks may result in diseases.

"The plastic tracks in China mainly consist of polyure-thane, a kind of nontoxic material," said Ye. "However, suppliers may add toxic adhesives. They give a pungent smell and may cause itching and dizziness.

"Some suppliers may also add a kind of material that helps the plastic to solidify, but the lead contained in it will raise lead levels above normal in children's blood after longtime exposure."

Ye added that the country has not put forward regulations relating the detection of volatile organic compounds given off by runways.

"Many parents worry that the harmful compounds in the plastic running tracks may result in infertility or early puberty," Ye said. "They don't need to worry about those problems unless their children lie on the runways for a long time or eat the compounds by accident."

The Jiangsu educational department has suggested that middle schools in Nanjing grow natural grass on their playgrounds.

Contact the writers at cangwei@chinadaily.com.cn

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