Unshaded capital playgrounds a cancer risk - study

8:51 pm on 9 January 2018

The vast majority of playgrounds in Wellington have no protection from the sun, new research out of the University of Otago shows.

An empty swing at a children's playground

Photo: 123RF

Researchers visited 50 playgrounds in the capital and found 95 percent of play equipment and 65 percent of seats and tables had no shade whatsoever.

That included shade cast by umbrellas, surrounding buildings, and trees.

The study's authors said in summer it could take as little as 10 minutes of direct exposure for the skin to burn.

Lead researcher Ryan Gage said nine out of 10 cases of skin cancer were linked to overexposure to sunshine.

"The most important message is a reminder to the general public really that sun protection is very important in New Zealand.

"It's important to use sunscreen, wear hats and use shade whenever's available."

Mr Gage said local councils should also look to improve the amount of shade at their playgrounds.

Wellington's deputy mayor Jill Day said the capital was aware of the issue, and adding shade to exposed playgrounds was something it aimed to do whenever possible.

"When we upgrade or build new playgrounds we give careful consideration to providing shade ... [but] alongside this message is the message that we need to encourage the community to slip, slop, slap and wrap.

"We look at providing shade as a council, but obviously we can't provide shade across the whole city."

Nearly 70,000 skin cancer diagnoses are made each year, with the disease killing 500 New Zealanders annually.

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