China / Society

Parents call for action over 'toxic tracks'

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-22 07:58

Parents call for action over 'toxic tracks'

A parent checks the running track at the Baiyunlu campus of Beijing No 2 Experimental Primary School. DENG JIA/CHINA DAILY

Authorities continue investigations after children across the country reported feeling unwell after playing on synthetic surfaces. Sun Xiaochen reports.

While excavators dismantled the synthetic surface at the Baiyunlu campus of Beijing No 2 Experimental Primary School on Sunday, a group of parents watched carefully, despite the noise of machinery, the swirling dust and the stench of plastic debris.

Like the surface of the playground, the parents' trust in the school and local educational authority has been shredded as a result of a recent health scare related to the facility, according to one parent, the mother of a fourth-grader, who preferred not to be named.

She is one of dozens of parents who claim their children were poisoned by toxic substances emitted by a synthetic running track that was laid last year. They cited a range of symptoms including nosebleeds, coughs and skin allergies that have affected at least 40 students since April.

"Removing the running surface is easy but are they (the authorities) determined to dig deeper to uncover the real reasons for the problem and those who should be held accountable? We doubt it," she said.

The claims followed a number of incidents in which students have been left feeling unwell after exposure to potentially toxic artificial sports fields at schools in at least 15 cities, according to a Xinhua News Agency report.

However, on June 14, the Beijing Municipal Education Commission announced that a follow-up air quality test conducted by the China National Environmental Monitoring Center indicated that the campus facilities adhered to the quality standards for national environmental monitoring and synthetic playgrounds.

Although six parents' representatives witnessed the tests, along with a third-party notary agency, some parents remain skeptical. "It's hard to believe the results went against the actual illnesses that so many children had at the same time, all with similar symptoms. Something must be wrong," a parent surnamed Chen told Beijing News on June 15.

In response, the Beijing Education Commission ordered an inspection of all synthetic sports fields on campuses, and suspended construction of playgrounds until new guidelines are formulated.

The commission said it will work with quality-control and environmental protection departments and professional organizations to draft and implement tougher, more-detailed guidelines for the manufacture, construction and assessment of playgrounds to guarantee safe use.

"Our priority is the children's health. If the investigation concludes that the playground materials contain toxic chemicals, we will track down those responsible," said Ding Dawei, director of the commission's branch in the Xicheng district.

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