Chromium on the Hands of Children After Playing in Playgrounds Built from Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA)–Treated Wood

Children’s exposure to arsenic and chromium from playground equipment constructed with chromated copper arsenate (CCA)–treated wood is a potential concern because of children’s hand-to mouth activity. However, there exists no direct measure of Cr levels on the hands of children after playing in such playgrounds. In this study we measured both soluble and total Cr on the hands of 139 children playing in playgrounds, eight of which were constructed with CCA-treated wood and eight of which were not. Children’s age and duration of play were recorded. The hands of each
child were washed after play with 150 mL deionized water, which was collected in a bag and subsequently underwent analysis of Cr and 20 other elements, using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Total average Cr on the hands of 63 children who played in CCA playgrounds was 1,112 ± 1,089 ng (median, 688; range 78–5,875). Total average Cr on the hands of 64 children who played in non-CCA playgrounds was 652 ± 586 ng (median, 492; range 61–3,377). The difference between the two groups is statistically significant (p < 0.01). Cr levels were highly correlated to both Cu (r = 0.672) and As (r = 0.736) levels in CCA playgrounds (p ≤ 0.01), but not non-CCA playgrounds (r = 0.252 and 0.486 for Cu and As, respectively). Principal-component analysis indicates that Cr, Cu, and As are more closely grouped together in CCA than in non- CCA playgrounds. These results suggest that the elevated levels of Cr and As on children’s hands are due to direct contact with CCA wood.

Camille Hamula, Zhongwen Wang, Hongquan Zhang, Elena Kwon, Xing-Fang Li, Stephan Gabos, and X. Chris Le (Environmental Health Perspectives, March 2006)