When Carla Munoz saw a sign at the Corktown Common playground warning that metal slides can get hot in the sun, she made sure to touch the slide to check.
It didn't feel too hot at the bottom, Munoz said.
But when her daughter Ana slid down on Monday, Munoz said the two-year-old suffered serious burns from the slide's "scorching hot" midsection.
"My little daughter went down on her bum, felt the heat, fell over her front, and went sliding down on her front," Munoz recalled during an interview with CBC Toronto. That led to burns on Ana's hands and knees, she said, including a roughly five-centimetre second-degree burn on her knee.
Now, Munoz is questioning why exposed metal slides — instead of covered slides, or ones made of rubber or another material — are still allowed in new city parks like Corktown Common, which was just opened back in 2013 in the Front Street East and Bayview Avenue area overlooking the Don River, and features two metal slides fully exposed to the summer sun.
Metal slides a 'design deficiency'
Having a slide made of metal, Munoz said, is a "design deficiency" that shows something fell through the cracks in the planning process.
Pediatric burn expert Charis Kelly agreed. It takes less than a second for a child's sensitive skin to sustain a contact burn injury from a hot surface, said the nurse practitioner at the Hospital for Sick Children's burns and plastic surgery unit.
"The hope would be is, if you're designing a park with metal slides, it would be in an extremely shady area — otherwise I would just stick with surfaces that don't get that hot, because as we've learned, they can create these really serious injuries," she said.
Having a shady covering is, in fact, the recommendation of CSA Group — the not-for-profit standards organization formerly known as the Canadian Standards Association — whose guidelines are followed by the City of Toronto.
"Wherever possible, metal surfaces (e.g., slides) should be located in shaded areas or facing north," notes the group's standards for children's playspaces and equipment.
City inspects playgrounds, follows Canadian standards
Matthew Cutler, spokesperson for Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation, said in addition to following the CSA guidelines, the city also regularly inspects playgrounds for safety.
But, he noted, many of Toronto's parks include slides and other elements made of metal that can heat up in the sun.
"While the installation of metal slides has declined in recent years, they are still installed in some new parks," Cutler said.
"Where metal slides are incorporated in new designs, it is often in areas that are shaded, or that do not have direct sunlight, in an attempt to minimize the effect of sunlight on use."
Cutler said the specific Corktown Common design was actually developed by Waterfront Toronto, a corporation funded by all three levels of government to lead Toronto's waterfront revitalization efforts.
Andrew Hilton, Waterfront Toronto's director of communications and public engagement, said the design was reviewed and approved twice by the city's Parks, Forestry and Recreation department — once during the design phase, and again during construction — and also reviewed by a third-party consultant to align with the CSA's guidelines.
"We have planted some trees adjacent to the slide which were specifically meant to provide a shady canopy for the slide when the trees grow out a bit more... eventually the canopy will cover the surface of the slide," he said.
But right now, those little trees aren't keeping the sun away, and Munoz worries her daughter won't be the last child burned for the sake of some summer fun.
"A sign is not cutting it," she said. "Something should be done for the safety of the kids."