Playspaces with tape around them. A sad sign during COVID19.

Playspaces with tape around them. A sad sign during COVID19.

There weren't many of Australia's 537 local government authorities that didn't close their playspaces due to COVID19. Most of us would have noted the yellow barrier tape around playspaces during 2020. Playspaces were very quickly identified as spaces where the "Bug" could be passed on. And putting the effect of sunlight on any pathogen aside that was the correct assumption. An article by Todd Brinker in the American Playground Professional magazine states:

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"Kids collect pathogens like you and I collect spam emails. We wipe the germs away, but more arrive and the problem persists. Eventually, we give in and live with it. When it came to playgrounds, this was the unfortunate, germ-riddled reality that parents, facility and park managers, mall operators, restaurant franchisees, and -- admittedly -- equipment manufacturers largely accepted for generations without pursuing any long-lasting remedies. Sure, frequent cleanings helped, but a disinfected playground only stayed pathogen-free until the next little one grabbed the swing chain. The reality is that possible exposure to winter colds, the flu, even strep throat, didn’t raise anyone’s concerns to the level of shutting down the swing sets, slides, and climbers. 

And then the pandemic happened. 

Since March of 2020, it’s been as common to see yellow caution tape closing off community and school playgrounds as it was previously to see parents and children surrounding them. That amazing, frenetic energy of shared, unstructured, educational play, a vital element of childhood development and community building was closed off to us, emblematic of the larger invasion of the "Bug" and its impacts on society.

Thankfully a lot of those yellow tapes have come down. I know at our Council our focus, when coming out of lockdown, was to get the playspaces open as soon as possible, and in most places around Australia they are still open. However, as in all emergencies, humans have a way of being innovative. And this is another example of that. Smart people started thinking about the issue of pathogens in playspaces more seriously, because we weren't just talking about a cold anymore, we were dealing with a pathogen a lot more deadly. So, could we fix the problem.

An American company, Playpower, has developed a coating, based on silane quat, a well-established class of antimicrobials initially created by Dow Corning in the 1970s. Silane quats enact a “mechanical kill” of pathogens rather than a “chemical kill”. In effect, they penetrate the cell wall of pathogens, killing them by rupturing the cell membrane. I have put the link to their article below for anyone that wants more information.

I am sure that many play equipment manufacturers will now start thinking about how to make their equipment more user friendly, not just to play on, but also to protect from unwanted visitors.

Necessity is the mother of all inventions.