Safety of Shredded Tires in Playgrounds Under Question

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Carol Goldberg (202) 265-7337

Safety of Shredded Tires in Playgrounds Under Question

EPA Endorsed Use without Analyzing Toxic Potential but Belated Studies in Limbo

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is having second thoughts
about the safety of shredded tires as fill in playgrounds, according to
agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER). EPA admits that it does not know the extent of
childhood exposure from ingestion or inhalation of an array of toxic
chemicals found within tires.

Every year millions of pounds of tires are recycled into ground
rubber, (called "tire crumb") and placed on playgrounds to reduce
injuries from falls. Both EPA and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission (CPSC) have endorsed the use of tire crumb for years but
neither agency ever investigated the potential toxicity to children
from direct contact with tire ingredients, such as arsenic, cadmium,
chromium, mercury and a number of dangerous hydrocarbons. Despite these
huge knowledge gaps, both agencies still endorse use of tire crumb,
which is increasingly being marketed for backyard use.

Documents obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that -

  • EPA lacks the information to "assess toxicological risks of
    tire crumb in situations where children are exposed" but has
    recommended tire crumbs for public recreational use since 1991;
  • Agencies are issuing contradictory advice to consumers. In June 2008,
    for example, the Centers for Disease Control issued an advisory for
    potential lead exposure from artificial turf, while weeks later, CPSC
    issued a press release downplaying the lead risk based on very limited
    testing; and
  • EPA plans to conduct its first field monitoring
    studies but admits that these limited tests will leave many questions
    unanswered.

"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."

Significantly, EPA has refused to release documents to PEER
describing the status of the agency's proposed field studies, which the
agency had described as very limited and not representative of "tire
crumb sources [or] turf field types". Nor has EPA scheduled a proposed
workshop with states and other relevant federal agencies to coordinate
research and health monitoring.

"In essence, EPA is
burying its head in the tire crumbs," Ruch added, noting that states
have fruitlessly asked EPA for guidance. "This is yet another instance
where EPA has mindlessly embraced a supposed ‘win-win' solution for a
solid waste problem without considering potential side effects."

PEER is asking EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to 1) revoke her
agency's endorsement of tire crumb until the research has concluded
that it is safe for children; 2) issue an interim public health
advisory; and 3) outline a coordinated approach, working with other
agencies, for assessing risk. If Ms. Jackson does not respond, PEER
will ask the appropriations panels handling the EPA budget to mandate
these actions.

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Read the 2008 warning memo on "Potential Risks of Tire Crumbs" from EPA Region 8

View the June 2008 EPA PowerPoint presentation summarizing issues

See the July 2008 EPA draft talking points to answer public and press inquiries

Look at the weaknesses and limitations in EPA's planned testing

 

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

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