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As the Pacific Northwest heats up, is it ever too hot...to slide?

hot slides
Russ Carmack/Photos by Russ Carmack
/
Metro Parks Tacoma
A young parkgoer enjoys one of the metal slides at the Wilson Way pedestrian bridge during the dedication event for Dune Peninsula Park in Tacoma.

We’ve all been that kid – bare legs in the summertime, touching a baking-hot metal slide at the playground.

As heat waves become our new normal in the Pacific Northwest, it got me wondering: is it ever too hot to slide?

My daughter turns two in December, and like a lot of toddlers she loves slides. And like most moms, I worry too much. So, I recently found myself emailing her daycare director about hot slides. Apparently, she said, kids burn themselves that way quite a bit. But not as much as they used to.

These days, most slides are made of plastic, which doesn’t get as hot. When slides are metal, they’re usually coated, making them more heat resistant.

But information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission says any surfaces exposed to temperatures above 74 degrees could pose a risk for thermal burns.

Still, slides are designed with this in mind now. Rosemary Ponnekanti works for Metro Parks Tacoma.

“Per regulation, all slides are required to face away from the sun,” Ponnekanti said. “So that means in this part of the Northern Hemisphere that’s mostly north facing.”

It’s probably good we have that requirement now. Ponnekanti remembers the days when the burn was real. She grew up in Australia, just north of Sydney.

“They were metal and they really soaked up that hot Australian sun,” she said of older slides. “I have many memories of getting slightly burned sliding down these hot metal slides.”

But Ponnekanti says it’s no reason to keep your kids off the playground. If you’re a worrier like me, the best advice to keep your kids safe it to cover their legs or test playground surfaces with the inside of your wrist before use. That’s the best indicator of how that surface will feel on young, sensitive skin.

I tried it on one of the hottest days earlier this week, at one of the only metal slides you’ll find in Tacoma parks, at the Wilson Way pedestrian bridge connecting Point Defiance Park to the waterfront.

The slide was sufficiently hot, but not too hot to enjoy.

I’m happy to report there were no burns, just fun.

Kari Plog is an award-winning reporter covering the South Sound, including Pierce, Thurston and Kitsap counties. Before transitioning to public radio in 2018, Kari worked as a print journalist at The News Tribune in Tacoma.