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A Germ of an Idea




While some fast food restaurants have daily and weekly sanitation procedures in place and hand sanitizers available for their playgrounds, sticky surfaces, filmy windows, traces of food, hair, or a combination thereof, may be experienced at some play areas. One crusading Arizona woman wants fast food playgrounds to undergo the same rigorous health inspections as their kitchens.
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Playground safety usually focuses on equipment that is potentially dangerous, inadequate play surfacing, or general design issues.

But what about germs and viruses on the playground? Kids, of course, are notorious for such sanitary practices as putting their fingers in their mouths, wiping their noses with the back of their hands and smearing those secretions on a nearby surface.

According to a pamphlet on infection control from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, germs (bacteria and viruses) are spread three ways: by contact, by droplet transmission and/or airborne transmission. Droplets, think sneezes, can spread three feet through the air and can land in another person’s eyes, nose
or mouth.

University of Arizona professor Chuck Gerba, notes that viruses that cause diarrhea can survive up to a month on surfaces, and MRSA bacteria can also be transmitted this way.

The Centers for Disease Control advises that keeping one’s hands clean is one of the best ways to keep from getting sick and spreading illnesses. Scrubbing surfaces with soap and water removes most germs, but it takes a disinfectant cleaner to kills germs.

Now picture the multitude of playgrounds at various fast food establishments. Now picture kids sliding and playing on equipment, some still eating, and you have quite a good breeding ground for bacteria and germs.

Enter Erin Carr-Jordan, a crusading 36-year-old mom and developmental psychologist from Chandler, Ariz. The local media, and now the broader media, reports she’s been visiting and videotaping more than 50 fast food-type playgrounds in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Colorado. She has been swabbing the various playground equipment and sending the samples to labs for microbial testing. The swabs reportedly have contained 13 types of potentially harmful bacteria.

Public health departments inspect restaurants, including fast food establishments, but do now inspect their playgrounds for food safety. In fact, a restaurant inspector cannot cite a restaurant for a dirty playground. Erin Carr-Jordan would like to see that law changed, making play areas at fast food restaurants undergo the same rigorous health inspections as their kitchens.

It’s reported that Chick-fil-A has a regular cleaning schedule for their play areas, that Chuck E. Cheese’s has eliminated ball pits and requires all play equipment be cleaned with sanitizers. Also, both companies have hand sanitizers available at the play areas.

McDonald's released a statement that they “have stringent daily and weekly Playplace sanitation procedures in place… (and) pay special attention to handrails, stair treads, the slide entrance and exit, the inside of domes, entry portholes, and other areas that are touched frequently and become soiled quickly.”

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April 23, 2014, 10:48 pm EST

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