Lead and other toxic metals in paint could be poisoning children in playgrounds across the west country, scientists have warned this week, prompting an investigation locally by Sedgemoor District Council.

It comes after environmental scientists from Plymouth University found lead content in paint on some playground equipment can be up to 40 times greater than recommended.

The level in old and flaking paint can be so high that swallowing a crumb of it would be enough to take a child under six over the safe level.

Sedgemoor District Council – which looks after playgrounds in the Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge area – is asking playground equipment contractors for more information about their paint manufacturing processes.

The university research team, led by Dr Andrew Turner, pictured above, also found higher than expected levels of the toxic metals chromium, antimony and cadmium when they surveyed a total of 47 playgrounds across Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Hampshire.

They are calling for playground paints to be monitored more closely to reduce the risk to public health.

Their research, published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, suggests that the levels could pose a significant risk to young children.

Five playgrounds were tested in the Sedgemoor area of Somerset and the council is taking quick action to look into the study’s claims.

A Sedgemoor District Council spokesman said on Monday: “Sedgemoor District Council staff carry out regular weekly visual checks of playground equipment for safety purposes.”

“A specialist sports equipment contractor carries out monthly safety inspection checks on all equipment; any defects are dealt with as and when they are identified.”

“Sedgemoor District Council has invested £930,000 in refurbishing and renewing playground equipment over the past three years.”

“We have asked all our playground equipment contractors for all information regarding paint manufacturing processes.”

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