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Study identifies need for more shade cover in Wellington playgrounds

Study identifies need for more shade cover in Wellington playgrounds
January 23, 2018

Children visiting playgrounds this summer may be at high risk of sunburn, according to a new study from the University of Otago, Wellington.

The researchers looked at shade cover in 50 playgrounds in the Wellington region between January and February 2017, and found that 95% of play equipment and 65% of seats/tables had no shade cover.

Average shade cover was approximately a quarter of that found in Australian playgrounds, where trees and built shade over playgrounds are more common.

Lead researcher Ryan Gage, says the study highlights the need for children and their parents to ensure they are protected from the sun this summer.

Gage explained "at this time of year between 10am and 4pm, the sun is strong enough to cause skin damage.

“We found that Wellington playgrounds have insufficient shade available. Increased shade is urgently needed to protect children from harmful ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure, by planting trees with heavy foliage and building structures with large, protective roofing.”

With Gage advising that the researchers used a Solarmeter to calculate the proportion of UVR blocked by each built structure and tree, he added "our study shows that many children in playgrounds are in full exposure to the sun. This puts them at risk of sunburn and skin cancer if they are not wearing sunscreen and/ or protective clothing.

“Providing effective shade in summer recreation spaces may help to reduce children’s risk of skin cancer."

New Zealanders are at the highest risk of melanoma skin cancer in the world. Each year, nearly 70,000 skin cancers are diagnosed and 500 New Zealanders die from skin cancer.

The researchers stress the importance for Kiwis to follow the SunSmart advice: 'slip on a shirt with long sleeves, slop on some sunscreen (about 1 teaspoon to each arm and leg), slap on a wide-brim hat and wrap on close-fitting sunglasses', when outdoors this summer, and to seek shade when it is available.

Gage concluded "approximately 90% of skin cancers are linked with excessive sun exposure. Forming lifelong sun protection habits is crucial for preventing skin cancer."

The research was published in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology. Click here for details. 

Image: Play area at Wellington Botanic Garden. 

8th September 2017 - CONCERN OVER DECLINING SWIMMING SKILLS AMONG NEW ZEALAND CHILDREN

12th November 2016 - NZRA ANNOUNCES 2016 AWARD WINNERS

20th January 2016 - AUCKLAND MOTHER STARTS CAMPAIGN FOR MORE SHADE AT PLAYGROUNDS

21st December 2014 - NZRA HIGHLIGHTS THE VALUE OF COUNCIL RECREATION INVESTMENT

14th December 2014 - NEW ZEALAND MOVES FORWARD WITH SUNBED RESTRICTIONS


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