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Environmental Concerns


Recent article from, 2016

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Risks of Recycled Tire Products


Nearly 300 million car and truck tires are discarded every year. To address the problem of tire stockpiles, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) encourages the recycling of waste tires into playground mulch and synthetic turf athletic field infill. Use of recycled waste tires has grown over the last two decades with thousands of playgrounds across the country using the material as cushioning under outdoor play equipment and as infill on artificial turf fields.


Increasing evidence about the toxicity of recycled tire material is raising concerns. Waste tire mulch and crumb rubber contains toxic chemicals such as phthalates, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and many other chemicals known or suspected to cause adverse health effects. According to a chemical analysis conducted by Yale University, 96 chemicals were found in the 14 samples analyzed. Half of the chemicals have no government testing on them – making it unclear whether they are safe or harmful to human health.

Children go to playgrounds almost daily and young athletes frequently practice and play on the artificial turf fields, exposing them to chronic toxicity from the various chemicals present in the recycled waste tire. When the material gets hot, the off-gassing of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) increases. Cumulative exposure can result in a buildup of toxic chemicals in their bodies and can potentially result in disease. For example, there is concern that soccer goalies with chronic exposure to crumb rubber on synthetic turf fields may be at a higher risk for lymphoma and leukemia cancers.


EPA acknowledges that more studies of crumb rubber need to be done, and has retracted an earlier assurance that crumb rubber turf is safe. On February 12, 2016 EPA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission launched a multi-agency action plan to study key environmental human health questions related to rubber from waste tires. By late 2016, the agencies will release a draft status report that describes the findings and conclusions of the research through that point in time. The report will also outline any additional research needs and next steps.


Clean Water Action supports delaying any new installation of playgrounds containing recycled tire mulch and artificial turf fields containing crumb rubber until findings from the Federal Research Action Plan on recycled tire crumb rubber infill are published and evaluated. The public deserves comprehensive evaluation of the product and deserves to be safeguarded from exposure until it is proven that there are no adverse environmental effects or risks to public health.

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