04/10/2012 04:09 EDT | Updated 06/10/2012 05:12 EDT

Mercury Found On Five Slides In Pickering Park

Police are trying to determine how "a quantity of mercury" ended up on several playground slides in Pickering, Ont.

A parent, Dean Scott, became aware of a suspicious material on a slide in Kinsmen Park on Monday afternoon, as well as a small plastic vial next to the playground equipment when he took his daughters there.

"I went and had a look at it, and I didn't like the looks of it," Scott said. "I wasn't sure exactly what it was at first, but I thought it may have been liquid mercury, so I said to the girls, 'Let's go, let's get away from this.'"

After police were called in, it was determined that the substance was mercury, a potentially hazardous chemical element that can be absorbed through skin contact or inhaled.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning include headaches, muscle weakness and impaired cognitive function. In extreme cases, it can cause kidney problems, respiratory failure, even death.

Mercury found on all 5 slides

Sgt. Nancy van Rooy, with Durham Regional Police, said it appears the playground equipment was intentionally tainted with small amounts of the toxic substance. Mercury was found on all five slides in the park and an empty plastic vial had been left on the ground.

"You're endangering lives, you're damaging or destroying public property. This is a park being used by people all the time," she said.

"It is believed that it was intentional, that somebody brought this substance to the park and left it on a slide where eventually some child would expectedly make contact with it."

Investigators said the mercury likely came from a science kit that can be easily purchased by anyone.

The park remains closed as police investigate further. Anyone with information is encouraged to call Durham Regional Police or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.