Two years ago, heavy metals exceeding the standards were detected from a urethane track in the school playing field, which greatly impacted the society. According to the risk investigation targeting 2,763 elementary, middle and high schools with urethane tracks by the Ministry of Education, 1,767 schools—about 64%—turned out to have playing fields containing heavy metals exceeding the acceptable limit. They include harmful substances such as lead, cadmium and mercury. Urethane track has been more preferred compared to sand when making playing fields and playgrounds since urethane does not raise as much dust whereas, sand does. People from education and environmental movements have been claiming that the life of urethane is up to eight years and if we miss the time to repair the tracks, chemical substances are worn out and very fine powder is generated, which can cause headaches, atopic dermatitis and additional side effects. They insist on using not urethane, but soil cement instead. Lead is the representative heavy metal accumulating in the body and threatening people's health. It is normally absorbed in the body through the respiratory organs which can cause fatigue, depression, panic disorder, constipation, weight loss, etc. Lead poisoning can even lead to dysphrasia, akinesia and other serious diseases. In addition, urethane track has turned out to contain cadmiumCadmium, which is a metal that can be highly transferable to others, is mainly used to make batteries. Gyeongsangnamdo Office of Education held a briefing session in Changwon National University education hall at 4pm on July 18th, 2016. It covered the important project about repairing urethane tracks due to the detection of harmful substances. Park Jong-hoon, the superintendent of education, said, "Urethane, the harmful carcinogen is still occupying our school playgrounds, so we need (to) change our perception of them… The health of children, the heath of students, they are the most precious values that are incomparable to any other value." He took a negative stance against urethane tracks, saying, "Harmful heavy metals and endocrine-disrupting chemicals are accumulated every day and they will be revealed ten years later like oxy. We need to make a decision, even if we can't help but accept any inconvenience and difficulty. What we have to choose right now is the health and the future of our children, so our priority is their health and happiness." He added that what the schools wanting to use urethane are worried about can be handled according to the Soil Environment Conservation Act, Child Play Facility Standards and school playground management manuals. Drainage after rain can be dealt with using newly-made drainage facilities and school playground management manuals. Sprinklers can manage clouds of dust and there can be regular checks on heavy metal contamination followed by cleaning and disinfection. He said that the reason why we needed to use soil cement again was because "Children have right to fall down and have bruises in the soil playground where they play together. Soil playground is a place where a variety of emotional, esthetic and educational activities are conducted. We have to give back this environmental-friendly place that helps developing emotion and the five senses of our children." Changwon National University started a project to create environmental-friendly track on the playground this March, and it is expected to be completed at the end of April. The university is carrying it out because there are people in and out of school asking for a replacement of the over-fifteen-year-old deteriorated urethane track with a new on. Some are worried saying that replacing the track with urethane seems to be a retrograde step. In this regard, Yoon Gyeong-hwan, in charge of the construction department, said that any heavy metal was detected in the school’s urethane track in the test to check harmful substances in 2016, and the students did not need to worry about it since the urethane used for the new track is the same product as the previous one. For more information related to inconvenience due to the construction or additional inquiries, contact at ☎ 055)213-2143(Construction division).
Lee Hun, editor-in-chief email@example.com
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