Are Shredded Tires Polluting Our Playgrounds?


Photo: Mykl Roventine via Flickr

The EPA is reexamining whether crumb rubber, made from shredded tires, is safe for playground applications. Previously, the EPA had okayed shredded tires for civil engineering and public recreation projects, but pressure by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has caused the EPA to reassess the possibility of health risks.

Where we are right now is, we just don´t have a recommendation," EPA spokesman Dale Kemery said. "I wish we did.

The Possible Health Risks of Shredded Tires
On June 4, PEER released several documents that raised questions of safety in regards to crumb rubber. The most notable document was an internal memo from EPA assistant regional administrator in Denver, Stephen Tuber. In the memo, Mr. Tuber voiced apprehensions about the safety of crumb rubber for playground use.

Read the memo.

Tires contain plenty of hazardous chemicals, including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury and several dangerous hydrocarbons. PEER is concerned that children can ingest these chemicals or extreme heat can release these toxins as vapor. Furthermore, there has never been a study that investigates the possible toxicological perils of tire crumbs and their effect on children.

From Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility

Kids roll around in this stuff, put it into their mouths and rub it into their skin and hair," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, pointing out that tire crumbs are often painted in bright colors enticing to very young children. "Despite the growing concerns of its own scientists, EPA has issued no public statement of caution and still promotes tire crumbs in playgrounds.

PEER sent a letter to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson asking her to formally revoke the EPA's endorsement of crumb rubber until new studies have been performed.

As of this writing, both the EPA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission endorse crumb rubber for playground use.

The Defense of Crumb Rubber
Waste and Recycling News:

The inference is they are looking for data gaps," Rubber Manufacturers Association Senior Vice President Michael Blumenthal said of EPA scientists. "I do not assume that to mean they are having second thoughts or that they would come out with anything negative.

"I think the opponents are jumping on anything, any news that comes out. They are just prepared with their canned statements and their lack of evidence to continue the misinformation campaign they are waging.

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