In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), schools and parents have voiced concerns about wooden playground equipment. The dangers of chemical additives seem to offset the design options of these play sets, but there are other solutions.
Disadvantages of Wooden Playgrounds
The main disadvantage is the insect and rot deterring chemicals in pressure-treated wood. These chemicals can seep out and the human body can absorb them, posing a risk of lung and bladder cancers. Most treated lumbers today contain alkaline copper quaternary or copper azole, which are improvements over the arsenic based preservatives of the past. However, due to the potential health hazard of these copper compounds, it is still recommended that you wear a dust mask, gloves and eye protection when cutting and handling the wood, as well as coat treated wood with a polyurethane sealer to prevent chemicals from leaching.
Advantages Compared to Other Playgrounds
Using wood, you can create an endless variety of playground systems. There is the option of purchasing a kit or building your own from plans. Some are build as you go, where you can buy or construct a base play set and add on equipment such as extra slides, poles and tire swings later on. Wooden playgrounds can include features that are nonexistent on most metal playgrounds, such as forts, climbing walls and built-in sandboxes. The low cost and ease of construction are also positive factors.
Creating a playground from naturally insect repelling wood species such as redwood and cedar eliminates the chemical threat. These untreated woods resist fungal rot as well and maintain their beauty without dangerous preservatives.