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Police investigate peanut butter playground prank

Wednesday - 7/21/2010, 4:49pm  ET

Loudoun County Playground (Neal Augenstein/WTOP Photo)
Crews have used cleaning agents to scrub the jungle gym, and removed the affected swings chains to be cleaned off-site. (Neal Augenstein/WTOP Photo)
Neal Augenstein, wtop.com

ASHBURN, Va. - It may have started as a prank, but local parents are concerned about a nutty situation at a playground.

The Loudoun County's Sheriff's Department is investigating peanut butter-covered playground equipment at a park in the Broadlands section of Ashburn.

Swings chains were slathered with Jif, according to neighbors who discovered a lid nearby.

Monkey bars and a sliding pole also had a thin layer of peanut butter on them, according to the homeowner association's online forum.

While the person or people who did it may have done it "for the gross out factor," sheriff's spokesman Kraig Troxell says police have "heard from parents of children who are allergic to peanuts."

Investigators will try to determine if the sticky fingered culprits were aware of the potential risk the gooey mess posed to children with peanut allergies.

Simply breathing or touching peanuts can cause a serious reaction.

On the Broadlands Homeowners Association's online forum and on the LivinginLoCo blog, outraged parents said the act was malicious.

"If (my son) were to go down the slide and get that amount of peanut butter on his legs, hands, and arms, he would have gone into anaphylactic shock," one person wrote.

Maureen Burns, acting general manager with the Broadlands Homeowners Association, says crews have used cleaning agents to scrub the jungle gym, and removed the affected swings chains to be cleaned off-site.

Asked by WTOP if she were aware of the incident, a woman arriving at the playground with four young children on Wednesday loaded them back in her minivan.

"It's scary. I have two children with peanut allergies. It makes me not want to take the kids to the playground. I never would have imagined this would have been an issue."

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology says peanut allergy affects 1.2 percent of children. Roughly one in five outgrows it by age 6.

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