EPA Has Second Thoughts About Recycled Tires in Playgrounds

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Ground-up tires, commonly known as tire crumb, have been used for years to provide surface cushioning to children’s playgrounds and sport fields. Considered a safe and effective material that was not only easy on the bones but also a great way of recycling, tire crumb was endorsed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and consumer groups. In fact, it was just recently laid down for the new White House playground.

But now doubts are surfacing about using recycled tires in the playground. Throughout the country, communities have been voicing concerns about chemicals that might be leaching from the shredded tires, causing potential health risks to children.

As a result of this concern, local studies looking at leaching and breathable air above sports fields are being undertaken to determine the risks.

However, one problem with local studies is that they often lack comprehensive data and therefore fail to consider all factors, such as the age and location of the playing field or playground. Age is important because wear and tear could make older fields more of a health risk. And location is important because tire manufacturers around the country differ and therefore so does the chemical makeup of the tires.

In New York City, one such study found no significant health or environmental concerns.  Despite the initial finding, the New York City officials have decided that their new sports fields will no longer use tire crumbs.

Meanwhile, EPA field scientists are doing their own study, collecting air and surface samples from four fields and playgrounds that have use recycled tires.  Results of this limited study will be made available sometime in June. We’ll keep you updated on the findings.

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